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WALT WHITMAN : An Appreciation. 


MONTAIGNE AND SHAKESPEARE. (Second Edition, with additional 

Essays on cognate subjects.) 
BUCKLE AND HIS CRITICS : a Sociological Study. 
THE SAXON AND THE CELT : a Sociological Study. 
MODERN HUMANISTS: Essays on Carlyle, Mill, Emerson, Arnold, 

Ruskin and Spencer. (Fourth Edition.) 
THE FALLACY OF SAVING : a Study in Economics. 
THE EIGHT HOURS QUESTION: a Study in Economics. (Second 

THE DYNAMICS OF RELIGION : an Essay in English Culture-History. 

(By "M. W. Wiseman.") 
A SHORT HISTORY OF FREETHOUGHT, Ancient and Modern. (Second 

Edition: 2 vols.) 
PAGAN CHRISTS : Studies in Comparative Hierology. (Second Edition 

in the press.) 
CRITICISMS. 2 vols. 

LETTERS ON REASONING. (Second Edition.) 
PIONEER HUMANISTS: Essays on Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, Spinoza, 

Shaftesbury. Mandeville, Gibbon, and Mary Wollstonecraft. 
CHARLES BRADLAUGH. By Mrs. Bradlaugh Bonner. Part II. by J. M. R. 







London : 






Introduction ----._._ xv ii 

Part I. 


Chap. I.— The Science and its History. 

§ 1. The Problem ------- l 

§ 2. The Scientific Beginnings 2 

§ 3. The Relation to Christianity - - - - - 10 

Chap. II.— Modern Systems. 

§ 1. The Meteorological, Etymological, and Solar Schools - - 16 

§ 2. The Movement of Anthropology : Tylor - - 21 

§ 3. A priori Evolutionism : Spencer - - - - 26 

§ 4. The Biological Correction - - - - - 28 

§ 5. Fresh Constructions, Reversions, Omissions, Evasions - 32 

§ 6. Mr. Lang and Anthropology - - - - - 37 

Chap. III.— The Separatist fallacy. 

§ 1. The Theistic Presupposition - - - - - 46 

§ 2. The Metaphysic of Religion - - - - 68 

§ 3. Some Academic Categories - - - - - 73 

§ 4. Mr. Grant Allen's Theorem - - - - - 90 

Chap. IV. — The Stand for the Bible. 

§ 1. Hebrew Mythology - - - - - - 96 

§ 2. Christianity and " Degeneration "-..'--- 109 

§ 3. The Psychological Resistance to Evidence - - - 114 

§ 4. The Problem of Non-Miraculous Myth - - - - 122 

§ 5. The Problem of Priority - - - - - 127 

Part II. 

The Problem of Priority. 

Rationalism committed to no historical presupposition. Old date 
of orthodox hypothesis. Theories of Giorgi. Hyde. Missionaries. 




Jones. Maurice. Baldaeus. Jones's presuppositions. Polier. 
Paulinus. Volney. Kleuker. Moor. Creuzer. ... 137 

§ 2. Age of Indian Documents. 

Ritter's criticism. Extravagance of Indian chronology. Oldest 
inscriptions. Origin of writing. Miiller and Tiele. Oral preserva- 
tion of lore. Brahman method of study - - - - 141 

§ 3. The Special Documents. 

Age of Vedas. Developments of Indian religion. Vogue of 
Krishnaism. Its documentary bases. Phases of Krishna - - 143 

§ 4. The Krishna Legend. 

Barth's synopsis. Solar significance. Krishna the Black, Hiding, 
or Night Sun. Black Deities in other systems. Krishna and Arjuna. 
Osiris and Typhon. Krishna originally a "demon." The vegetal- 
spirit theory. Supersedes Indra. Contrary Christian view - 145 


§ 5. The Christian Argument. 

Wheeler's History. Thesis of its Atlienceum critic. His pre- 
suppositions. Professor Miiller's apologetics. Superior candour of 
continental scholarship. Weber's attitude. General view of Sanskri- 
tists. Wheeler on question of imitation - 152 

§ 6. The Central Disproof. 

Antiquity of Kansa Myth. Bhandarkar on Patanjali. Weber's 
admissions. The main question settled .... 157 

§ 7. Antiquity of Krishnaism. 

Further proofs. Bhitari Pillar inscription. Bayley's inscriptions. 
Buddhal Pillar Inscription. Khandogya Upanishad. Miiller and 
Weber - - - - - - - - - 159 

§ 8. Invalid Evidence. 

Lassen on the Hercules of Megasthenes. Criticism of Tiele. 
Wilson's position. Upheld by Weber and Senart. Bala Rama's 
characteristics. His close correspondence with the Hercules of 
Megasthenes. Rama Chandra ..... 1G1 

§ 9. Weber's Theory. 

His general attitude ; Theory of early Greek influence and imita- 
tion of Christianity ; Doctrine of Faith ; Concrete details - - 164 

§ 10. Pagan Parallels. 

1. Criticism of Weber's positions ; The Kansa Myth ; Problem of 
Christian Origins ; Virgin and Child derived from Isis and Horus ; 
De Rossi on the Catacomb Madonnas ; Pre-Christian Child-carrying 
Goddesses ; Virgin Goddesses ; Juno ; Isis ; Venus ; Alitta ; Aphro- 
dite; British Museum nomenclature: India and Egypt; Tiele's 
criticism of Weber ; Universality of Virgin-Mother Goddess ; 
Buddha Virgin-born ; Jerome's testimony ; Krishnaite Name- 
giving ; Early Christian placing of Nativity on Epiphany ; Christmas 



a Pre-Christian Festival ; Name-day in Hercules-worship ; Name- 
day in Mazdeism ; Baptizing on Epiphany ; Abyssinian usage. 
2. The Birth-Festival and the Puranas ; Weber's explanation 
accepted ; Purana legends not necessarily late ; Birthdays of Gods 
astrological ; Krishna and Star Eohini ; Krishna Nativity in July ; 
Significance of this ; Birthday of Horos in July ; Hindu Festivals ; 
Mattu Pongal and St. Anthony's Day ; Myth derived from Eitual ; 
Krishnaite and Roman Festivals ; The " Swinging " Festival - 166 

§ 11. The Solar-Child Myth. 

Connection of Kansa legend with legend of Cyrus. Parallel legends. 
The Coat of Many Colours. Dangers run by the Divine Child. The 
myths of Sargon, Horus, Moses, and others. Confucius miraculously 
born. The Messianic Cyrus and Jesus. The Massacre of the Innocents. 
The Child Speaking at Birth. The Birth in a Cave. The Child 
Born on a Journey. Maya and Mary. The Mythological River. 
The " Taxing " Journey. The Myth of the Seven Gates - - 180 

§ 12. The Stable and Manger. 

Weber and Senart on the Krishna Ritual. The Manger-basket 
of Dionysos, Hermes, and Zeus. Bas-reliefs in the Catacombs. Ion. 
Ox and ass. Cows and Stable. Isis and the Virgin Cow. Horos 
born on Christmas Eve. Virgin, Child, and Manger Myth pre- 
Christian in Egypt. Cow Myth in Mithraism. Ox and Ass symbolic. 
The Christian legend. The text in Habakkuk. The Cave motive. 
Agni the Babe God in the Veda. Myths concerning him. Agni and 
Dionysos twice born. The Cow-shed in the Krishna ritual and in 
Catacomb sculpture. The Symbolic Ass. Images in Christism and 
Krishnaism. Joseph and the Ass. Virgin-Myth ritualized in Egypt. 
The Magi. Antiquity of the Babe-Sun-God. Dramatic ritual in 
Krishnaism and Christism - - - - -191 

§ 13. The Myth of St. Christopher. 

The name Christophoroi. Cognate terms. The Pastophoroi. The 
charge of Child-eating. The Christian Mysteries secret. Testi- 
monies of Clarkson, Palmer, Trollope, and Hatch. Child-carrying 
in Pagan Cults. The sacramental eating of baked images. General 
use of such images. The principle of Eating the God. The Krishna 
Myth and the Christian. St. Christopher's Day - - - 205 

§ 14. Indian and Christian Religious Drama. 

Weber's View. Wilson's. Buddhist testimony. " The Toy- 
Cart." Devaki and Vasudeva. Dramatic ritual in early Christism. 
Evidence of St. Proclus. Dramatic origin of the Eucharist and the 
Mass. Early Christian Religious Drama. The Liturgies. The 
Greek Mysteries. Persistence of the Pagan Drama - 215 

§ 15. The Seven Myth. 

1. The Seven Brother Martyrs; The Seven Sleepers; The Seven 
V irgins ; The Seven Priests ; Contact of Mithraism and Christism ; 
The Banquet of Seven ; Cox on the Seven Myth ; The Sleepers 





and Martyrs = the Seasons and Pleiads. 2. The Seventh Month; 
Devaki s Children ; Vedic Myth of the Eighth Child ; The Younger 
Brother; The Seven Planetary Spirits; Eight Egyptian Cosmic 
Powers, The Week Myth; Semitic Usage; Saturn; Possible 
Myth Connections. 3. Alteration in Order of Months. Birthdav 
Festival Dates - J 

§ 16. The Descent into Hell. 

Introduction of the Dogma. Pagan Precedents. Osiris, Herakles 
Hermes, Dionysos, Adonis, Orpheus, Zamolxis, Mithra, Apollo' 
Balder and Arthur. Krishna's Descent. Cerberus. The "Two" 
rescued " Sons " in both Legends. Also in Legend of Buddha. The 
Dragon. Christianity and Buddhism 

§ 17. Spurious and Remote Myth Parallels. 

The Address to the Fig-tree. Doctrine of Immortality. Transfi- 
guration. Feet-washing. Raising the Widow's Son. Anointing the 
God. Judas and his Bag ... 

§ 18. Explanation of tlie Krishna Myth. 

1. Its Obviously Solar Character; Repetitions in Solar Mytho- 
m°5 L5 rislma and A S ni ; Cox ' s A *alysis ; Krishnaite Syncretism ; 
The Three Ramas = One; The Cult of Bala Rama. 2 Weber's 
Chronological Scheme ; Senart's Refutation ; Weber's Answer ■ Its 
Insufficiency. 3. Buddhist and Other Parallels - . 2 44 

§ 19. Krishnaite and Christist Doctrine. 

1 Weber's Misconception of Wilson; Wilson's real opinion 
2. Lormser on the Bhagavat Gita; His error as to "India"' 
Vague Early Use of the Name ; Chrysostom's Evidence ; No Early 
Hindu Translation of Gospels. 3. Date of the Gita ; Telang's 
Suggestion ; Lorinser's Parallels ; Their Futility ; Pagan and New 
Testament Parallels ; Universal Theology and Ethics ; Brahman and 
Christian Pantheism. 4. Bhakti and Sraddhd ; Christian Doctrine 
of Faith from Judaism ; Its Universality ; Muir, Telang and Tiele 
on the Indian Doctrine ; Position of Senart and Barth - '. 2 54 

§ 20. The "White Island." 

Weber's Thesis. Lassen's Argument. Telang's Refutation. Tiele's 
Endorsement. Senart and Barth take same ground. Christian 

- 267 

§ 21. The Crucifixion Myth. 

^ e a e T, 0f , M °° r and HigginS - Was there an Asiatic Crucifixion 
Myth ? Andrade and Giorgi on the Crucifixion Myth in Tibet Indra 
Crucified. Dr. Oldfield's Corroboration. Krishna on the Tree The 
Two Thieves." Frauds on Wilford. Wilson on Gnostic borrowings 
from India. Epiphanius' Testimony. Difficulty of the question - 270 
§ 22. Summary. 

Theses positive and negative. The Christian hypothesis found 
untenable and absurd. All the evidence against it - . 2 73 


Part III. 


peeamble --------- 277 

First Division. Myths of Action. 

§ 1. The Virgin Birth - - - - - -292 

§ 2. The Mythic Maries - - - - - - 297 

§ 3. The Myth of Joseph - - - - - - 302 

§ 4. The Annunciation ------ 305 

§ 5. The Cave and Stable Birth - - - - - 306 

§ 6. The Birthday - - - - - - - 308 

§ 7. The Massacre of the Innocents - 309 

Note on the Moses Myth - - - - - 309 

§ 8. The Boy Jesus in the Temple - - - - - 310 

§ 9. The Upbringing at Nazareth - - - - - 311 

§ 10. The Temptation - - - - - - 318 

§ 11. The Water- Wine Miracle - - - - - 329 

§ 12. The Scourging of the Money-Changers - - - 330 

§ 13. The Walking on the Water 331 

§ 14. The Healing of Two Blind Men - - - - 332 

§ 15. Other Myths of Healing and Resurrection - - - 332 

§ 16. The Feeding of the Five Thousand - - - - 335 

§ 17. The Anointing - - - - - - - 336 

§ 18. The Riding on the Ass and Foal - - - - 338 

§ 19. The Myth of the Twelve Apostles - - - - 341 

§ 20. The Characteristics of Peter - - - - - 347 

§ 21. The Myth of Judas Iscariot - • - - - 352 

§ 22. The Lord's Supper - - - - - - 355 

§ 23. The Transfiguration and the Agony ... - 361 

§ 24. The Crucifixion - - - - - - - 362 

§ 25. The Cross-bearing by Simon of Cyrene - - - 368 

§ 26. The Mystic Cross 369 

§ 27. The Seamless Tunic - - - - - - 379 

§ 28. The Burial and Resurrection - - - - - 381 

§ 29. The Banquet of Seven - - - - - - 382 

§ 30. The Ascension - - - - - - - 384 

Second Division. Myths of Doctrine. 

Preamble : The Jesuine Discourses in General- - - 386 

§ 1. Jesus as Saviour, Mediator, and Logos - - - 395 

§ 2. The Preaching of John the Baptist - - - - 396 

§ 3. Jesus as a Preacher of Universalism - 397 
§ 4. Jesus as Messiah ------ 398 

§ 5. Jesus as Preparing the Kingdom of God - - - 401 

§ 6. The Sermon on the Mount - 403 

Note on the Gospels and the Talmud - 

- 413 




7. The Lord's Prayer ...... 415 

8. The Beatitudes - - - - - - - 421 

9. The Woman Taken in Adultery .... 423 

10. Gnostic and Cryptic Parables ----- 425 

11. The Late Ethical Parables in Luke - 426 

12. The Discourses of the Fourth Gospel - - - - 428 
Epilogue - - - - - - - 433 

Appendix : The Neo-Unitarian Position - - - 439 

§ 1. Neumann ....... 439 

§ 2. Schmiedel - - - - - - - 441 

§ 3. Pfleiderer - - - - - - - 447 

§ 4. Carpenter _.-..-. 451 

§ 5. Schweitzer ------- 456 

Index - - - - - - - - - 461 


OTHER avocations have made difficult the due revision of this book 
in the light of the manifold hierological discussion of the past ten 
years. Since, however, I have seen no reason to give up any of its 
main contentions, and the growing interest in the central problem is 
expressed by the demand for a new edition, I have made shift to 
improve and expand it at the many points that had obtruded them- 
selves for fuller consideration in the course of my general reading. 
And there is the further reason for removing the " out-of-print " bar 
under which the book has lately lain, that, latterly as formerly, its 
most prominent theological critics are industrious in misrepresenting 
its positions. In this respect neo-Unitarians and Trinitarians seem 
to be at one. 

For instance, Professor A. Keville, reviewing the book in the 
Revue de I'histoire des religions, in 1902, wrote (p. 276) : — 

It will not be exacted from us that wo should follow tho English author 
from one end of his book to the other. That would involve the making of 
another, as large. Wo have sought simply to sketch the impressions which 
he leaves upon us. It is in particular the mythology and the legend of 
Krishna that he loves to present as one of the principal sources of the 
evangelical myth or myths. Well, this is very far-fetched (bien loin et bien 
forci). Why make such journeys when, in order to indicate the possible 
source of legendary elements in the canonical narrative, one could seek it 
without going past Palestine, or at least Semitism? 

It would doubtless be Quixotic to demand of a professional 
theologian that he should read a book through before condemning 
it ; but it seems difficult so to differentiate the moral standards of 
the theologian and the layman as to entitle him to frame his cen- 
sures without reading it at all. Professor Keville had shaped his 
criticism in entire ignorance of the thesis even of the second part, to 
which he expressly referred. So far from representing the Krishna 
legend as one of the principal sources of the gospel myths, it suggests 
such a possibility or probability only in the case of one or two sub- 
sidiary details. Its main thesis is that the Christian writings cannot 
be a main source of the Krishna myth — a very different proposition. 
If Professor Keville had even glanced at the third part, entitled " The 
Gospel Myths," he would have been deterred from his egregious 


allegation. Had he gone through it, he would have found not a 
single positive assertion, and only one or two qualified suggestions, 
of derivation of minor details from Krishnaism. He would doubtless 
remain convinced that the proposed derivations from nearer sources 
were fallacious ; but he could scarcely have retained his preliminary 
belief that the unread treatise declared the main source to be India. 
In point of fact, he framed his indictment upon a wrong guess. 

A layman who is puzzled by the standards of critical morality 
revealed in such a performance as that of Professor Reville may 
perhaps find a gleam of elucidation in another deliverance, by the 
Rev. Canon J. A. MacCulloch, D.D., author of a primer on Religion : 
its Origin and Forms, a manual on Comparative Theology, and other 
works of an ostensibly scientific cast. In a lecture on " Comparative 
Religion [sic] and the Historic Christ " in the collection entitled 
Religion and the Modern World (lectures delivered before the Glasgow 
University Society of St. Ninian), 1909, Canon MacCulloch does me 
the honour, in one section, to " propose to confine " himself to " some " 
of my arguments, and thereupon proceeds to speak of me asa" school," 
of which he gives this among other details of description (pp. 151-2) : — 

Their antagonism to Christianity is seen in this, that they seem willing to 
apologise for and to prove the originality of every other form of religion. 
While scholars of repute have suggested that, e.g., the cult of Krishna in 
India or much of the story of Balder in Scandinavia may have been borrowed 
from Christian sources, the rationalist angrily asserts that this is impossible, 
and that Christianity has itself borrowed from the impure cult of Krishna. 
But if such a world-wide religion as Christianity has been so arrant a 
borrower, we may well ask why all borrowings from it should be so 

If Canon MacCulloch had not been himself so angry as not only 
to feel that all his antagonists must be so, but to be unable to follow 
their arguments, he would have been aware (l) that in this volume 
the Voluspa Saga is expressly admitted to have been coloured by 
Christian influences ; (2) that, as aforesaid, the Krishna story is 
indicated as a possible source of Christian myth only at one or two 
subsidiary points ; (3) that Buddhism is declared to have borrowed 
freely from Krishnaism, and many ancient cults to have assimilated 
others ; (4) that the probability of a deluge-myth among the Mexicans 
being derived from missionary teaching is conceded ; and (5) that the 
argument contains this express avowal : "as Christism borrowed 
myths of all kinds from Paganism, so it may pass on myths to less 
developed systems." Any layman will of course see that every 
alleged case must be considered on its merits ; and it is the dispas- 
sionate critical handling of the two cases named by him that has 


reduced Canon MacCulloch to a state of mind in which, like 
Professor Reville, he transcends ordinary standards of literary 
morals. It would thus appear that odium theologicum can operate 
to-day very much as of old. The professional theologian reproduces 
the psychic phenomena of the state of war : he cannot refrain from 
inventing charges against his opponent. 

In the Appendix in which I have dealt with the arguments of 
some of the leading writers who maintain, from a historical and 
variously heterodox point of view, the contrary position to my own, 
I hope to have at least escaped the snare of misrepresentation. 
But I am not so presumptuous as to suppose that in the handling of 
this far-reaching controversy I have escaped fallacy or reached 
finality. Expanding experience in various fields of discussion 
reveals more fully to some of us the difficulty of putting any 
innovating theory of wide scope at all forcibly without seeming 
to rely at times more on emphasis than on reasoning. And this 
difficulty, it may well be, has not always been overcome in the 
following pages. On the other hand, it seems to be at times too 
great for the dialectic powers of distinguished exponents of con- 
servative views in these matters. When even Dr. Frazer, who has 
had some experience in arousing conservative resistance, can offer 
nothing better than a headlong petitio principii as ground for 
rejecting a theory that applies his own theoretic principles where 
he is not disposed to apply them, it is not surprising to find 
Dr. Sanday and Dr. Carpenter, with their theological consciousness 
of special enlightenment, undertaking to dispose of unsettling doc- 
trines by the oracular modes of the profession. Dr. Sanday, 
disturbed by neologism, threateningly reminds us that " human 
nature " will not endure more than a certain amount of such 
disturbance ; though at other times his normal benevolence prompts 
him to credit with " mother wit " some of those who presume to 
impugn his creed. A little of that useful endowment might seem 
sufficient to make him realize that human nature can be claimed by 
all of us, and that in that field at least there can be no monopoly 
and no precedence. 

As regards scholarship, again, culture history is but a record of 
its inadequacy in the absence of scientific " mother wit." Everyone 
of the thousand abandoned fortresses of theology had been walled 
by libraries of learning. Hence a somewhat obvious futility in 
undertakings to ban new theorists by blank imputations of incom- 
petence. Dr. Carpenter, for instance, undertakes to decide difficult 
historical problems by telling heretics like myself that they do not 


know the moaning of evidence, and lack the historical sense, and 
that he possesses the required gifts. Dr. Frazer at a pinch resorts 
to the same simple procedure. After reading a good deal of history 
I am disposed to admit that the " historical sense " can vary greatly in 
individuals in point of delicacy and accuracy ; and I am as sensible of 
psychic shortcomings on the part of my critics as they can be of mine ; 
but I do not see that anything is settled, save for the already con- 
vinced, by the exchange of such assurances. The open-minded reader, 
I trust, would no more take as decisive my estimate of Dr. Carpenter's 
faculty for weighing evidence than he will take Dr. Carpenter's bare 
dictum against me. To open-minded readers in general I will only 
suggest that every new reading of the past, whether of man or of 
Nature, has been at its inception denounced as stupid ; that the 
standing hindrance to the right use of the historical sense is prepos- 
session ; and that prepossessions about religions, deities, and revered 
personages are in the nature of things apt to be nearly absolute. 

In every age the average man — under which class I include the 
average expert — is structurally unable to accept radically innovating 
ideas. For a century and a half he could not accept Copernicanism. 
When Copernicanism and the Newtonian system had been generally 
assimilated, the old resistance was renewed in the case of geology ; 
and when that science, in turn, had been at length established, the 
mob of average minds raged in the old fashion against Darwin. 
Their worthless judgments are always held and delivered with the 
same furious confidence ; and with the same sense of intellectual 
superiority they pronounce the same verdicts of incapacity against 
each innovator in turn. Their incapacity, obviously, is no argument 
for the truth of the new theory, which may as easily be wrong as 
right ; but if anything can reasonably be held to demonstrate radical 
incompetence for the ascertaining of scientific truth, it is precisely 
this confidence in prejudice, and the accompanying inability to argue 
without ascription of primary incapacity to the opponent. He who 
realizes the dissolution that has taken place within a hundred years 
of many beliefs held by tenure alike of intuition and of supposed 
historical proof, will surely be slow to rely on his mere habit of 
certitude against a serious challenge to any one of his historical 
convictions. For my own part I have at least diffidence enough to 
be still on the look-out for fuller or better elucidations of a number 
of the problems here handled. 

To that end, I am tempted to add to the first part of the present 
volume some account of the developments of mythological research 
as set forth in Professor 0. Gruppe's book of 1908, Die mythologiscJie 


Literatur aus den Jahren 1898-1905 ; but refrain on the ground 
that the following treatise never professed to be a manual of mytho- 
logical science, but aimed simply at bringing the methods of 
mythology to bear on surviving as well as on dead religion ; and 
that this purpose is sufficiently served without undertaking to follow 
up all the mythological research of the time. The inclusion of 
living matter within the scope of mythology is still the pressing 
problem ; and it is probably overloaded already, for some readers, 
with discussions of mythological issues which stand apart. I 
may, however, remind the reader that further developments of the 
problem are undertaken in the treatise entitled Pagan Christs, which 
followed the present book, and of which a new and expanded edition 
is now in preparation. 

Meantime I have pleasure in calling attention to certain works 
which tell of much new and vigorous activity over these problems 
in the great intellectual workshop of Germany. There also, of 
course, conservative theologians resort to the argumentum ad 
hominem in its more elementary forms. Thus, in the noteworthy 
discussion on the problem "Did Jesus Live?" held under the 
auspices of the German Society of Monists {Monistenbund) at Berlin 
on January 31st and February 1st, 1910, over a paper by Professor 
Dr. Arthur Drews, of Carlsruhe, entitled Is Jesus a Historical Per- 
sonality ? I find Professor D. H. Pfarrer von Soden disposing of my 
unworthy self as " an Englishman (not the celebrated one) who has no 
great name among us." I may be permitted to offer the rev. professor 
my condolences on the fact that he is under a similar drawback in 
England, and to express the hope that both of us may nevertheless 
continue to hold up our heads. The important thing is that the 
discussion under notice has aroused the mind of Germany. The 
first edition of the report, consisting of ten thousand copies, was 
sold out in little more than a month ; and its theme was discussed 
in hundreds of meetings, innumerable journals, and a multitude of 
pamphlets. This unexampled ferment results proximately from the 
publication of the remarkable book by Dr. Drews entitled Die 
Ghristusmythe (1st ed. Jena, 1909 ; 3rd ed. 1910), which, following 
on the notable works of the late Pastor Kalthoff, has irre- 
sistibly forced the question of the historicity of Jesus upon the 
attention alike of scholars and laymen in Germany. Whatever 
may be the outcome, the problem is now definitely present to the 
German theological world. Other treatises, such as the meritorious 
little book of Dr. Martin Bruckner, Der sterbende und auferstehende 
Gottheiland in den orientalischen Beligionen und ihr Verhdltnis zum 


Ghristenthum in the " Religionsgeschichtliche Volksbucher" series 
(Tiibingen, 1908), present it judicially ; and the pamphlet of Arthur 
Bohtlingk, Zur Aufhellung der Christusmythologie (Frankfurt am 
Main, 1910), sets forth the relation of the new theorem to the 
critical movement of the past century. 

In England we do not move so fast. Here also, however, " it 
moves." Ignored by most theologians, the problem is faced by 
some, however cavalierly; and the light comes "not through 
eastern windows only," so to speak. Whatever may be the fate of 
the theorem propounded in this book and in Pagan Christs, 
orthodoxy has small prospect of peaceful possession before it. 
The work of Dr. Albert Schweitzer entitled The Quest of the 
Historical Jesus : A Critical Study of its Progress from Beimarus 
to Wrede, to the English translation of which (1910 ; A. and C. 
Black) Professor F. C. Burkitt, D.D., has contributed a preface, is 
considerably further removed from the traditional belief than from 
this negation thereof. 

I can but express my satisfaction that the line of argument 
followed by me is in fundamental agreement with, and is at vital 
points strengthened by, that of Professor Drews, and that of the 
important treatise of Dr. W. B. Smith on Der Vorchristliche Jesus 
(Giessen, 1906), which first systematically set forth the case for the 
thesis of its title. The fact that Professor Schmiedel thought that 
treatise worthy of a preface from him may suffice to countervail the 
dialectic which would dismiss it as an idle hypothesis. 

In preparing the present edition I am deeply indebted to my 
friend Mr. Percy Vaughan for carefully reading the proofs and 
revising the index. 

July, 1910. 


The three treatises making up this volume stand for a process of 
inquiry which began to take written form nearly twenty-five years 
ago. It set out with a certain scientific principle and a certain 
historical purpose : the principle being that Christian Origins should 
be studied with constant precaution against the common assumption 
that all myths of action and doctrine must be mere accretions round 
the biography of a great teacher, broadly figured by "the" Gospel 
Jesus ; while the practical purpose was to exhibit " The Eise of 
Christianity, Sociologically Considered." To that end I was pre- 
pared to assume a primitive cult, arising in memory of a teacher 
with twelve disciples. But the first independent explorations, the 
first rigorous attempts to identify the first Jesuists, led to a series 
of fresh exposures of myth. " Jesus of Nazareth " turned out to be 
a compound of an already composite Gospel Jesus, an interposed 
Jesus the Nazarite, and a superimposed Jesus born at Nazareth. 
And none of the three aspects equated with the primary Jesus of 
Paul. Each in turn was, in Paul's words, " another Jesus whom 
we have not preached." And the Twelve Apostles were demonstrably 

While, therefore, a sociological foundation was in a measure 
reached, it was plain that the ground had not yet been cleared of 
mythology ; and at that stage I even surmised that, in view of the 
known frequency alike of Messiahs and Jesuses in Jewry, an actual 
succession of Jesuses might be the historical solution. Such a 
theorem represented a still imperfect appreciation of the scope and 
dominion of the principle of Myth ; and it fitly chanced that the 
sociological inquiry was arrested for a time as a literary task, though 
continued as a study. 

Soon after, at the request of the late Mr. Bradlaugh, I undertook 
the research concerning "Christ and Krishna" by way of solving 
scientifically and objectively a simpler general problem in mythology 
and hierology ; and about the same time the undertaking of an inde- 
pendent research into Mithraism further enabled me to see the 
Christian problem in a fuller scientific light. Thus the original 
inquiry, never discontinued as a subject of thought, led gradually to 


a conception of Mythology as a more catholic science, or a more 
scientific classification of certain knowledge, than it has yet been 
shown to be in the hands of its cultivators, admirable as much of 
their work is. That view I have now tried to set forth critically 
and historically in the opening treatise on " The Progress of Mytho- 
logy." The study on " Christ and Krishna," which first appeared 
serially in Mr. Bradlaugh's journal and was reprinted (1889) with 
additions and corrections, is now again a good deal expanded, and in 
parts rewritten. It seeks on one hand to illustrate, in detail, what 
seems to me the right method of dealing with certain problems 
glanced at in the opening treatise ; and on the other hand to lead 
organically into the general problem of Christian mythology. 
Finally, the survey of " The Gospel Myths," portions of which were 
also published serially, is recast and greatly enlarged, by w T ay of 
finally clearing the mythological ground for sociology "proper." 

As regards the theoretic problem, I cannot better prepare a 
reader to catch my point of view than by indicating it critically as 
against the diverging doctrine of the work of Dr. Percy Gardner 
entitled Exploratio Evangelica (1899), a treatise in many respects 
wise and stimulating, which came into my hands only when the 
bulk of this volume was in type. As I regard it, Dr. Gardner's 
treatise relies unduly on the old, untested, metaphysical conception 
of mythology. Consider, for instance, the proposition that " probably 
at that time [early Christian age] in all the Levant the true myth- 
making age luas over. But the faculties which had been employed in 
the construction of myth were still at work. And they found their 
natural field in the adaptation of history to national and ethical 
purpose." 1 Such language seems to me to confute itself: in any 
case, the whole drift of the present work is a gainsaying of such 
divisions as the one thus sought to be drawn. Dr. Gardner speaks 
again 2 of " the vague and childish character of the true myth." I 
submit that there are all degrees of vagueness and childishness in 
myth, from the grossest to the slightest, even in the pre-Christian 
lore of Greece, and that though there may be grading there can be no 
scientific sunderance. A myth commonly so-called, when all is said, 
is simply a false hypothesis (whether framed in bad faith or in good 
faith) which once found easy credence; and when inadequate or 
illusory hypotheses find acceptance in our own time, we see exem- 
plified at once the play of the myth-making faculty and that of the 
normal credulity on which it lives. 

i Work cited, p. 149. 2 Id. P. 108. 


Over a generation ago Adalbert Kuhn, one of the pioneers of modern 
mythology in Germany, in his lecture at Berlin, Ueber Entwichel- 
ungstufen der Mythenbildtmg, denied that there had been any one 
"true" or sole mythical period, and affirmed that the mythopoetic 
faculty simply varies and evolves. Professor Angelo de Gubernatis, 
in the concluding lecture of his course at Florence on Vedic Mytho- 
logy, 1 while giving a general assent, stipulated that there is a great 
difference between the ancient classic or Vedic and the modern — ■ 
even the modern savage — myth, in respect of the ancient com- 
bination of ignorance with abundance of language. But this is to 
admit that the differentiation is mainly in terms of knowledge, and 
to exclude Dr. Gardner's distinction between the " true " myth- 
making age B.C. and that which followed. There was probably more 
scientific thinking in the Greek- speaking world in the period from 
Thales to Aristotle than in the greater part of it during the period 
between Augustus and the nineteenth century. Nay, the rural 
population of Greece to-day is mentally nearer the myth-making 
stage than was the educated part of the Athens of Pericles ; and the 
Catholic peasantry of southern Europe has been pretty much at the 
same standpoint down till the other day. True, modern science 
makes impossible the old easy mythopoiesis among people scienti- 
fically instructed; but even in the "educated" world of to-day, to 
say nothing of the survival of belief in Christian myths, or of the 
rise of the Mormon cult in the civilized United States, we see mytho- 
poiesis at work among the educated followers of Madame Blavatsky 
and of Mrs. Eddy. And there is only a tint of psychic difference, 
so to speak, between their mental processes and those which avail 
to secure the currency of any fallacious belief in politics or in 

Any "explanation" which is but an a priori formula to account 
for an uncomprehended and unanalyzed process of phenomena is a 
" true myth " in so far as it finds utterance and acceptance. Some 
myths are less fortuitous, more purposive, than others ; and a 
question might fairly be raised as to whether there is not here a true 
psychological distinction. My answer is that we can never demon- 
strate the entire absence of purpose: it is always a question of 
degree ; and it makes little scientific difference in our elucidation 
whether we impute more or less of ignorant good faith, provided we 
recognize variation. A quite primitive myth may have been a con- 
scious fiction on the part of its first framer ; but the credulity of its 

1 Letture sopra la mitologia vedica, 1874, pp. 328-9. 


acceptors assimilated it in exactly the same way as others framed in 
better faith. 

Even if, however, we restricted ourselves to false hypotheses 
framed in absolute good faith, the old conception of myth remains a 
stumbling-block to be got rid of. It obscures our comprehension of 
the psychological process even of myths commonly so-called. Dr. 
Gardner, for instance, writes that " the Phoenician kinsmen of the 
Jews retained down to quite late times the terrible custom of human 
sacrifice. Its abolition very early among the Hebrews was a mark 
of their unique religious consciousness, and a sign of their lofty 
destiny." 1 This proposition — to say nothing of the serious historic 
error as to a "very early" disappearance of human sacrifice among 
the Hebrews — I should describe as the quasi-explanation of an 
uncomprehended process in terms of the phenomena themselves ; as 
in the propositions that opium has a dormitive virtue, and that 
nature abhors a vacuum. And such explanations, I submit, so far 
as they are accepted, are myths, made very much in the old way, 
though with far higher intellectual faculties. Even as the movement 
of the sun and planets was not scientifically accounted for by 
supposing them to be tenanted by Gods or guiding spirits, so the 
evolution of a community and its culture is not accounted for by 
crediting the community with "unique consciousness" and "lofty 
destiny." The old explanation was a myth ; the other is only myth 
on a different plane of instruction. 

The effect of this change of theoretic standpoint must needs be 
considerable, at least as regards phraseology. I will merely say 
that, conceiving myth thus comprehensively, I have sought to track 
and elucidate it by lines of evidence not usually made to co-operate. 
Myth in the gospels, on the view here taken, is to be detected not 
merely by means of the data of comparative mythology, but also by 
means of analysis of the texts. As Baur argued long ago, from 
criticism of the history we must come to criticism of the documents. 
But the later criticism of the documents, prepossessed by old con- 
ceptions of myth, has often made little account of concrete mytho- 
logy, and has so fallen back on Hegelian formulas — that is, on 
philosophical myths — where real solutions were quite feasible. At 
the same time, students of mythology have often taken myth for 
biography, for lack of analysis of the texts. As illustrating my idea 
of what is to be gained by the concurrent use of both procedures, I 
may point to the subsections of Part III, " The Gospel Myths," 

1 Work cited, p. 105. 


dealing with (a) the Myth of the Temptation, and (b) the Myth of 
the Upbringing at Nazareth. The first undertakes to trace an 
ostensibly fortuitous myth by various methods of comparative 
mythology, in particular by colligating clues in art and in literature ; 
the second undertakes to trace a relatively purposive myth by 
analysis of the texts which gradually construct it, leaving part of 
the problem of the motives, in the latter case, for a wider historical 
inquiry. And here we have cases which test the old theory of myth — 
Baur's and Dr. Gardner's conception of " the true myth." The first 
myth, we say, is ostensibly fortuitous, the second ostensibly pur- 
posive. But neither assumption is susceptible of proof. The first 
myth, in its Christian aspect, may have originated in a deliberate 
fiction by a priest who gave what he knew to be a false explanation 
of a picture or sculpture ; the second may have originated in good 
faith, with a theorist who did not believe that the first Christian 
Nazarenes were so called in the sense of Nazarites. In fine, what 
makes a myth " truly " so is not the state of mind of the man who 
first framed it, but the state of mind of those who adopted it. And 
that state of mind is simply uncritical credulity. 

It may be that in some process of textual criticism in the treatise 
on " The Gospel Myths " I have unknowingly put forward theses 
already advanced by other critics. The German literature in that 
department is so immense that I have not sought to compass even 
the bulk of it, having read a good deal with little decisive gain. 
Much of it is a mere prolongation of dispute over the more problem- 
atical, leaving the less problematical line of demonstration unoccupied. 
It seems in every way more profitable to put the case afresh from 
my own standpoint, on the lines of my own chosen approach, which 
is the result or sequel of a survey of previous methods ; and to do 
this without even criticizing a whole series of such methods which 
strike me as finally fallacious. Not that they were not meritorious 
in their circumstances : on the contrary, they frequently convey a 
melancholy impression of a great expenditure of intellectual power 
to no effectual end. In comparing Bruno Bauer, for instance, with 
11 safe " modern practitioners like Bernhard Weiss, one cannot but 
be struck by the greater originality and acuteness of the free-lance. 
But the bulk of the work of Bruno Bauer was practically thrown 
away by reason of his false Hegelian or quasi-Hegelian method ; 
for he is more Hegelian than Strauss, and constantly frames his 
solutions in terms of the more problematical rather than in terms 
of the less. Every phenomenon in the text is by him accounted 
for through an a priori abstraction of the constructive consciousness 


of the early Christian community, acting as it theoretically needs 
must ; so that we get psychological and sociological myth in 
place of theological. The negation is right ; the affirmation is 

Broadly speaking, such work as Bruno Bauer's, and much of 
that of Strauss, answers to Comte's conception of the normal rise of 
a metaphysical mode of thought as the first departure from a theo- 
logical ; this though Bauer thought that he and Weisse and Wilke 
and others had reached the true " positive " standpoint. The truth 
is that none of us — certainly not Comte — could make the transition 
so promptly as he supposed himself to have done ; at best we grow 
less and less metaphysical (or, as I should prefer to put it, less 
apriorist), more and more " positive." This appears even in the 
weighty performance of F. C. Baur, a more " positive " thinker 
and investigator than Bruno Bauer, whose error of method he 
exposed with perfect precision. Common prudence, therefore, 
dictates the admission that the method of the following treatises 
is likely to suffer in some degree from survivals of the " meta- 
physical" tendency. I claim only that, so far as it goes, it is in 
general more " positive," more inductive, less a priori, more obedient 
to scientific canons, than that of the previous critics known to me 
who have reached similar anti-traditional results. It substitutes an 
anthropological basis, in terms of the concrete phenomena of mytho- 
logy, for a pseudo-philosophical presupposition. 

That this will give it any advantage as against the ecclesiastical 
defence would be too much to look for. I have suggested that that 
defence represents, however unconsciously, the organization of an 
economic interest ; that the ostensible course of criticism is not a 
matter of the logical evolution of discovery, as in a disinterested 
science, but of the social selection of types of teacher. No stronger 
brain than Baur has dealt with historical theology in Germany since 
his day : either through their own choice of other careers or the 
official selection of other candidates, the stronger German brains have 
mostly wrought in other fields. So, in the Church of England, we 
see no continuous advance in the application of clerical ability, from 
Milman onwards, to the problems of Christian Origins. If the 
capable men are there, they are mostly gagged or obstructed. The 
late Dr. Edwin Hatch, the one Churchman save Dr. Cheyne who in 
our time has done original and at the same time valid and important 
service in that field, appears to have been in a measure positively 
ostracized in his profession, though the sale of his works shows 
their wide acceptability even within its limits. The corporate 


interest and organization avail to override unorganized liberalism, 
there as elsewhere. 

When then Dr. Percy Gardner, writing as a layman, avows that 
he cannot hope " to escape the opposition and anger which have 
always greeted any attempt to apply to the Christian creed the 
principles which are applied freely to other forms of faith," 1 I may 
well count on a worse if more cursory reception for a book which in 
places represents him as unwarrantably conservative of tradition. 
Such treatises properly appeal to serious and open-minded laymen. 
Unfortunately the open-minded laity are in large part satisfied to 
think that traditionalism is discredited, and so take up an attitude 
of indifference to works which any longer join issue with it. None 
the less, those who realize the precariousness of modern gains in 
the battle against the tyranny of the past must continue the 
campaign, so doing what they can to save the optimists from, it 
may be, a rude awakening. 

1 Work cited, p. 118. 



Chapter I. 

§ 1. The 'Problem. 

THERE are stages in the history of every science when its progress 
can be seen to consist in applying to its subject-matter a wider 
conception of relations. Scientific progress, indeed, mainly consists 
in such resorts to larger syntheses. In Geology, as Mr. Spencer 
points out, " when the igneous and aqueous hypotheses were united, 
a rapid advance took place "; in Biology progress came through "the 
fusion of the doctrine of types with the doctrine of adaptations "; 
and in Psychology, similarly, an evolutionary conception partly 
harmonized the doctrines of the Lockian and Kantian schools. 1 It 
is true that Mr. Spencer proceeds to turn the generalization to the 
account of his theorem of a " Eeconciliation " between " Eeligion " 
and " Science," on a ground which he declares to be outside both — 
that is, to belong to no science whatever. Nevertheless, the general 
proposition as above illustrated is just ; and there is an obvious 
presumption that it will hold good of any science in particular. 

It is proposed in the present inquiry to try whether the renewed 
application of the principle may not give light and leading in the 
science — if we can agree so to call it — of mythology. By some the 
title may be positively withheld, on the ground that mythology so- 
called is seen in recent discussions to be only a collection of certain 
lore, to which are applied conflicting theories ; and it is not to be 
denied that there is enough of conflict and confusion to give colour 
to such an account of the matter. But inasmuch as there has been 
progress in course of centuries towards scientific agreement on 
certain classifications of the phenomena ; and as this progress can 

1 First Principles, p. 22. 


be shown to consist in successive extensions of the relations under 
which they are contemplated, there is reason to conclude that 
mythology is a science like another, though latterly retarded more 
than others by the persistence of pre-scientific assumptions. 

Myth, broadly speaking, is a form of traditionary error ; and 
while the definition of mythology turns upon the recognition of the 
special form, the bane of the science has been the more or less 
complete isolation of it in thought from all the other forms. The 
best analogy for our purpose is perhaps not any of those cited from 
Mr. Spencer, but rather the case of Astronomy, where Newton's 
great hypothesis was by way of seeing planetary motions as cases of 
motion in general. Any form of traditionary error, it seems clear, 
must occur in terms of the general conditions of traditionary error ; 
and such error in general must be conceived in terms of men's 
efforts at explanation or classification of things in general, at 
successive stages of thought. Yet in our own time, under the 
ostensible reign of Naturalism, after ages in which men looked at 
myth from a point of view that made almost invisible the psycho- 
logical continuity between myth-makers' mental processes and their 
own, we find accomplished students of the science still much 
occupied in setting up walls of utter division between the mythopoeic 
and all other mental processes ; between the different aspects of 
early classification ; between the aspects of myth ; between myth 
and " religion," religion and magic, myth and early morals, myth 
and legend, myth and allegory, myth and tradition, myth and 
supernaturalist biography. If past scientific experience can yield 
us any guidance, it would seem that such a tendency is frustrative 
of scientific progress. 

§ 2. The Scientific Beginnings. 

Gains there have certainly been, in the last half century. When 
we compare its results with those of the previous ten or even four 
centuries, as sketched in the Introduction a l' etude de la mythologie 
of Emeric-David, 1 we must admit a considerable progress ; though 
if we should chronicle as he did the backward treatises as well as 
the others we could make a rather chequered narrative. The 
definite gain is that the naturalist method, often broached but not 
accepted before our time, is now nearly though not quite as generally 
employed in this as in the other sciences, whereas in past times 
there was an overpowering tendency to handle it from the point of 

1 Paris, 1833. 


view of that belief in " revelation " which so seriously vitiated the 
study of Greek mythology in the hands of Mr. Gladstone, the last 
eminent practitioner on the old basis. How effectively that belief 
has retarded this science in particular may be partly gathered from 
Emeric-David's historical sketch. 

Beginning with Albric in the eighth century, Maimonides in the 
twelfth, and Boccaccio in the fourteenth, the learned academician 
makes out a list of between seventy and eighty scholarly writers on 
mythology down to Benjamin Constant. He might have extended 
the list to a hundred ; but it is duly representative, save in that it 
oddly omits all mention of Fontenelle, whose essay Be Vorigine des 
fables, as Mr. Lang points out, substantially anticipated the modern 
anthropological and evolutionary point of view. 1 This was of all 
previous treatises the one which could best have enlarged and 
rectified the French historian's own method, and he either overlooks 
or wilfully ignores it, taking note only of the rather one-sided view of 
the anthropological principle presented later by De Brosses and his 
disciple Benjamin Constant. It may be helpful at this point, 
however, to note the manner of the progression, as very fairly set 
forth in the main by Emeric-David, and in part by Karl Ottfried 
Miiller in his earlier Prolegomena. 2 

The movements of advance and reaction in the history of mytho- 
logical science, then, may be thus summarily and formally stated. 

1. In rationalistic antiquity, the principle of evolution was 
barely glimpsed ; and on the one hand the professed mythologists 
aimed at multiplying symbolical or allegorical meanings rather than 
tracing development, while on the other the school of Evemeros 
framed a set of false "naturalistic" explanations, being equally 
devoid of the requisite historical knowledge. The mythologists sank 
the fabulous personalities of the Gods in symbols ; the skeptics sank 
them in actual human personages. 

2. A substantially scientific beginning was made by the late 
school which reduced the symbolism of the older schools to a 
recognition of the large part played by sun and moon in most 
systems. In the hands of Macrobius (4th c.) this key is applied 
very much on the lines of the modern solar theory, with results 
which are still in large part valid. But that step of science, like 

2 4 S -^ es his Histoir e des Oracles, 1686. 
eye S pS^Ttt 8 ""^' \ nd ? le present sketch is of course only a bird's- 
wS^STteO^^iSS 1 ^;*??* *** ^ Mythologie, Einleitung, §7; Decharme, 
siitrma MniZ.iZ i° A V lt ^ ue > Introd., pp. vi-xx; and Father Cara, Esame critico del 
Prato , 1884? ^ Knauistico, applicata alia mitologia e alia scienza clelle reUgione, 


nearly every other, was lost under Christianity and the resurgence 
of barbarism. 

3. The Christian Fathers, when not disposing of Pagan Gods as 
demons, had no thought save to ridicule the old mythologies, 
failing to realize the character of their own. 

4. The scholars of the Renaissance recognized the principle of 
Nature-symbolism, as set forth by Macrobius ; but when, in the 
sixteenth century, scholarship began to classify the details of the 
pagan systems, it had no general guiding principle, and did but 
accumulate data. 

5. Bacon, who made symbolism his general principle of inter- 
pretation, applied it fancifully, slightly, and without method. 
Selden and others, with much wider knowledge, applied the old 
principle that the pagan deities were personalized nature-forces, as 
sun and moon. But others, as Leibnitz, Vossius, Bochart, and 
Mosheim, confused all by the theological presupposition (adopted 
from the ancient atheists) that the pagan deities were deified men, 
and by assuming further that the early life of antiquity was truly 
set forth only in the Bible. 

6. Other earlier and later theologians, as Huet, though opposed 
by critical scholars such as Selden, Basnage, and Vico, went still 
further astray on the theory that pagan Gods were perversions of 
Biblical personages ; and that all pagan theologies were perversions of 
an earlier monotheism. Such an application of comparative method 
as was made by Spencer of Cambridge (De Legibus Hebrceorum, 
1685) was far in advance of the powers of assimilation of the time. 

7. Skeptics like Bayle derided all explanations alike, and 
ridiculed the hope of reaching any better. 

8. New attempts were in large part a priori, and some went 
back to Evemerism — e.g., that of the Abbe Banier, who saw myth 
origins in perversions both of historical fact and of Biblical narra- 
tives. The sound theorem of personalized forces was reiterated by 
Vico and others, and that of savage origins was thrown out by 
Fontenelle, but the theological method and premisses overrode 
scientific views. Other rationalists failed to apply the clue of 
evolution from savagery, and wrongly staked all on purposive 
allegorizing; though in the field of hierology the Jesuit Lafitau 
clearly saw the connection between ancient and savage religious 
customs, even comparing Psalm 186 with the Death-song of a 
North American Indian at the stake. 1 

1 Lafitau, Mceurs des sauvages ameriquaius, 1724, i, 180. 


9. The Naturalism of De Brosses (JDu culte clcs fetiches, 1760) was 
as noteworthy as that of Fontenelle, and, though necessarily un- 
scientific at some points for lack of anthropological data, might have 
served as a starting-point for new science. But even the deists of 
the time were not in general ready for it ; and the Christians of 
course much less so. On the other hand, the great astronomical 
and symbolical system of Dupuis (chief work, 1795), an application 
of the theses and methods of Macrobius to the gospels and to the 
Apocalypse, did not account for the obscurer primitive elements of 
myth, though it rightly carried the mythological principle into the 
surviving religions. This was eloquently done also in the slighter 
but more brilliant work of Volney, Les Buines (1791), which 
proceeds on an earlier research by Dupuis. In England and 
Germany the deistic movement of the eighteenth century also led 
to the recognition of myths in the Old Testament. 1 

10. In the same period, Heyne — whether or not profiting by 
Fontenelle — developed a view that was in large part scientific, 
recognizing that myth is " the infant language of the race," lacking 
11 the morality and delicacy of a later age," and that in later periods 
early myths were embellished, altered, and poeticized. He radically 
erred, however, in assuming that the early myth-makers only pro- 
visionally albeit " necessarily " personified natural forces, and always 
knew that what they said had not really happened. On the other 
hand, while teaching that their myths came to be literally believed 
by posterity, he erred in ascribing to the Homeric bards a concep- 
tion of these myths as pure symbol ; this conception having origi- 
nated with the theosophic priests of Asia and Egypt, whence it 
reached the post-Homeric Greek rationalists. Voss, 2 opposing 
Heyne as he later did Creuzer, did not improve on Heyne's 
positions, leaning unduly to the belief that primeval man allegorized 
reflectively, and making too much of the otherwise valid theory of 
deified ancestors, later insisted on by Mr. Spencer. 

11. A distinct advance in breadth of view was made by Butt- 
mann, 3 who purified Heyne's doctrine as to the essential primitive- 
ness or aboriginality of typical myth, and freshly laid the founda- 
tions of Comparative Mythology. Eecognizing that the same 
primitive mode of thinking could give rise to similar myths in 

1 Preller (Griech. My thai. ed. 1860, i, 20) finds a predilection to particular points of view 
in the different nations— the Italians arguing for allegory, the Dutch for perversion of the 
Bible, the French for Evemerism and other pragmatic principles, and the Germans stand- 
ing for an original monotheism. But this classification, as Preller implicitly admits, is 
only loosely true for any period ; and it no longer holds good in any degree. 

2 Mythologische Brie) 'e, 1794. 

3 Treatises between 1794 and 1828 collected in MytJwlogus, 2 Bde. 1828-9. 


different nations independently of intercourse, he called for a com- 
prehensive collocation. Naturally, however, he thus made too little 
of the special local significance of many^myths. 

12. Creuzer, 1 on the other hand, while rightly recognizing that 
personification was a fundamental law of early thought, nevertheless 
founded on the false assumption of a "pure monotheistic primitive 
religion," and so stressed the idea of reflective allegory as to obscure 
his own doctrine that primeval man personified forces quite spon- 
taneously. Yet he introduced real clues — as that of the derivation 
of some myths from ritual, and that of verbal misconception, a 
theory later carried to excess by F. G. Welcker, and still later by 
Max Miiller. He also noted the fact — fallaciously stressed by Mr. 
Lang in our own day — that the primitive mind made no such dis- 
tinction between spirits and bodies as is made in later theology. 
Hermann, proceeding on similar fundamental lines, likewise con- 
ceived myth too much in terms of the constructive allegorizing of 
priesthoods, overlooking the spontaneous and relatively fantastic 
beginnings of savagery. 

Alongside of these later German writers, whom he does not 
mention, Erneric-David does not innovate in any effective fashion. 
His own interpretative principle, further set forth in his treatise 
Jupiter (1832), is that laid down with caution but applied without 
any by Bacon — that myths are symbolical attempts to explain 
Nature ; and to make his treatise broadly scientific it needed that 
he should have recognized how the principle of so-called fetichism, 
or the actual primitive personalizing of nature-forces, preceded and 
conditioned the systems which the writer handled as purposively 
symbolical, and symbolical only. The anthropological method had 
been indicated by Heyne, whose system he admitted to be " true at 
bottom"; but on this side he made no use of it. As it was, he 
partly rectified the bias towards a single astronomical point of view 
which narrows the great treatise of Dupuis, De Vorigine de tous les 
cultes. Concerning that, he rightly admitted that with all its 
limitations " it still constitutes the most luminous treatise that has 
been written on mythology"; 2 and his own contribution may be 

1 Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Volker, besonders der Griechen, 4 Bde. 1810-12. 

2 Introduction cited, p. lxv. Similarly Arnold Huge, after pointing out its errors of 
system, pronounced that "Sonst, d. h. wenn wir diesen Mangel ergtinzen, ist Dupuis' Werk 
eine grosse freie That, die himmelweit ttber die Makeleien und Ohrenbeichten der 
deutschen und neufranzosischen Mantel- und Rechnungstrager hinausgeht, theoretisch 
und praktisch auf den Boden der wiedergeborenen Menschheit tritt, und im Wesentlichen 
dankbar anzuerkennen und festzuhalten ist. 1st die ausschliessliche Riicksicht auf die 
astronomischen Gotter einseitig ; so ist sie darum nicht minder eine wesentliche und 
gerade hinsichtlich der christlichen Priesterspeculation eine sehr interessante Seite der 


said to have consisted in adding several wards to Dupuis's key, or 
new keys to Dupuis's two or three, letting it be seen that the old 
symbolical interpretation of nature was at once a simpler and a 
more complicated matter than Dupuis had supposed. At the same 
time, he made no attempt to carry on the great practical service of 
Dupuis and his school, the application of the pagan keys to the 
Christian religion, but confines himself to the Greek. 

The same thing falls to be said in some degree of the earlier 
Prolegomena of Karl Ottfried Muller (1828) ,* of which Emeric-David 
makes no mention, on his principle of not criticising living writers. 
But none the less had Muller brought to the study of Greek 
mythology a learning, a genius, and a method which give a really 
scientific character to his work. In the school of Dupuis he shows 
no interest, merely referring to Dupuis in an Appendix. Whether 
this came of policy or of non-acquaintance we cannot well divine ; 
but it is much to be regretted that he thus failed to come in touch 
with the most vital problem of his study. On the other hand, he 
did much to clear up the scientific ground so far as he did go. One 
of the most intellectual and most alert German scholars of that 
great period, he brought to bear on all Greek matters an exact and 
critical knowledge such as had hardly ever before been vigilantly 
applied to mythology ; and though he did not escape the bane of all 
pioneers — indefiniteness and self-contradiction — he did not a little 
to reduce previous confusions. Good samples of his services as a 
first-hand investigator are his statement 2 of the grounds for holding 
that the complete myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus is late, and 
his analysis of the myth of the transformation of Callisto into a 
bear. In the latter case, by strict scrutiny of all the sources — a 
thing too seldom thought of before his day — he arrived at the clear 
demonstration that " Callisto is nothing else than the Goddess and 
her sacred animal combined in one idea," and that Callisto became 
a bear, in the original legend, for this reason only, that the animal 
was sacred to Arcadian Artemis." 3 The subsequent ascertainment 
that a bear-Goddess, Artio, was anciently worshipped at Berne, is 

Sache" (Reden iiber Religion, ihr Entstehen unci Vergeben, an die Gebildeten unter ihren 
Verehrern, von Arnold Huge, 2te Aufl. 1869, p. 81). 

1 Translated in English in 1844, under the title Introduction to a Scientific System of 
Mythology, by J. Leitch. 

2 Introduction, Eng. tr. p. 58. 

3 Id., pp. 16-17. 

4 Cp. S. Eeinach, Orpheus, ed. 1909, p. 24. There is some ground for doubt, however, as 
to whether all the animal associations of Greek Gods are to be explained on the same 
principle— that the animal is the original God, and the human form a later development. 
So Eeinach, pp. 22, 119-120. Cp. Lang, Custom and Myth, essay on Apollo and the 
Mouse." The fusing of so many different animals with the cult of the Sun-God raises 
difficulties; and Mr. Lang, in his reprint of his essay in The Origins of Religion (R.P. A., 
1908), writes that it " is to be taken under all reserve." 


a memorable vindication of Muller's insight. His deficiency on the 
concrete side appears in the same connection, when he observes that 
to Artemis as a Nature-Goddess "the most powerful creatures in 
nature, such as the bear, were sacred." This is unduly vague, 
and leaves us asking, in the light of later anthropology, whether 
the bear is not traceable further, and, in the light even of 
previous explanation, whether the bear was not after all associated 
with the Goddess because of the verbal resemblance between the 
names arhtos (bear) and Artemis, or whether the latter name is not a 
mere development from the former. Of the principle of totemism, 
which traces many animal worships to a motive independent of any 
selection of "powerful" types, Muller had not learned to take account. 
As regards general principles, Ottfried Muller is perhaps only at 
two points open to serious criticism. He rightly controverted the 
view, implicit in Dupuis and explicit in Creuzer (though Creuzer 
also implied the contrary), that systematic symbolism and allegory 
were the main and primary sources of myth ; arguing with Schelling 
that mythi were at the outset essentially spontaneous and unartificial. 
At the same time, when dealing with the substantially sound thesis 
of Heyne, that "the my thus [in its early forms] was the infant 
language of the race," and that " poverty and necessity are its 
parents," 1 he is led by his passion for classical antiquity to put an 
unreasonably flat contradiction, 2 and thus seems to set his face 
against the fundamental truth that all religion begins in savagery. 
Thus he inconsistently lays stress 3 on the conscious moral purpose 
of the myth of Zeus and Lycaon, which he holds to be very early, 
while disregarding the immorality of others, both earlier and later. 
The difficulty becomes acute when, making a needless verbal strife 
over the term " allegory," he insists that, if a certain worship were 
" allegorical in the strict sense, it could be no worship at all." 4 He 
goes on : " Here we have to deal with a mode of contemplating the 
world which is quite foreign to our notions, and in which it is 
difficult for us to enter. It is not incumbent on the historical investi- 
gation of mythology to ascertain the foundations on which it rests. 
This must be left to the highest of all historical sciences — one whose 
internal relations are scarcely yet dreamt of — the history of the human 
mind." On which one at once answers, first, that mythology, as 
distinguished from mere mykhography, must be of itself a part of the 
history of the human mind, if it is anything, and that it must in 

1 Cited by Muller, p. 256. Schelling had said the same thing, Ueber My then, 1793, cited 
by Strauss, Leben Jesu, Einleit. § 8. 

2 Muller, p. 20. 3 P. 18. 4 P. 61. 


some sort settle its bases as it goes along ; and, secondly, that Miiller 
himself, in the next breath, goes on to specify such a foundation when 
he speaks of a" certain necessity of intuition " as underlying the 
formation of mythi. But indeed he is thus reasoning on psycho- 
logical grounds all through his treatise ; and we are entitled to say 
that the deliverance above cited is in plain contradiction of his 
practice, as well as of his later and really sound decision, given in 
comment on Creuzer, that " mythology is still an historical science 
like every other. For can we call a mere compilation of facts history ? 
and must we not, in every field of the science of history, ascend on 
the ladder of facts to a knoivledge of internal being and life f" 

That is the most serious contradiction in the book ; and we can 
but say on the other hand that the reasoner enables us to correct 
him when he errs. His frequent protests (echoed by Grote) against 
the attribution of " allegory " to myths in general, do but point to 
the confessed imperfection of the "history of the human mind" — 
a consideration which should have made him more circumspect 
verbally. We are left asking, What is allegory ? and while we can 
all agree that early Greeks certainly did not allegorize as did Spenser 
and Bunyan, and that the Prometheus story in its complete form is 
clearly late, we are none the less forced to surmise that something 
of the nature of allegory may enter even into early myths — that at 
times even the myth-making savage in a dim way necessarily dis- 
tinguishes at the outset between his myth and his other credences, 
or at least is often in a manner allegorizing when he makes his story 
to explain the facts of nature. Where he differs from the scientific 
man (though not from the religious) is in his power of passing from 
the half- allegoric conception to the literalist. In any case, it is 
not historically or psychologically true that, as Miiller puts it, 
" my thus and allegory are ideas lying [necessarily] far apart"; 2 
and we may, I think, be sure that some of the writers he antagonized 
were using the word " allegory "in a sense of which the practical 
fitness is tacitly admitted by his repeated use of the phrase " strictly 
allegorical." All the while he admitted, 3 as does Grote after him, 4 
that an allegorical explanation frequently holds good of parts even 
of early myths ; which is really a surrender of the essentials in the 

As against these minor confusions, however, we must place to 
the credit of Ottfried Miiller a general lucidity and a catholicity of 
method that make him still a valuable instructor. While he avoided 

1 Id. p. 273. 2 Id. p. 272. 3 Id. pp. 18, 58. 4 History of Greece, second par. 


the extravagances of the symbolists, he sensibly recognized and 
explained many symbols ; and while he objected to allegoric systems 
he gave the sound advice: "Let us therefore, without rejecting 
anything of that kind, merely hold back, and wait for the develop- 
ment of individual cases." 2 Without laying down the anthropo- 
logical method, he prepares us for it, especially by his keen attention 
to the geography of Greek myth ; and while disclaiming all-round 
interpretation he helps us to many solutions. The most helpful 
of his many luminous thoughts is perhaps his formulation 3 of the 
principle, implicitly to be gathered from Creuzer, 4 that in many 
cases " the whole my thus sprang from the worship, and not the 
worship from the my thus " — a principle accepted from him by 
Grote 5 and by a number of later students, including Professor 
Eobertson Smith and Dr. J. G. Frazer, and likely in the future to 
yield results of the first importance when applied to living as it has 
been to dead problems. 6 But thereby hangs, as we shall see, a tale 
to the effect that the course of true mythology does not run smooth. 
The application of the science to living problems is the weakest 
point in its present development. Thus far, then, we may round 
our summary of progress : — 

13. Karl Ottfried Miiller and Emeric-David, proceeding on earlier 
studies and laying down general principles for myth interpretation 
(the former looking narrowly to documentary evidences and the 
latter putting stress on general symbolic values), alike failed on the 
one hand to explain the barbarous and primeval element in mythology, 
and on the other hand to connect mythology with the surviving 
religions. Each, however, gave sound general guidance, and Miiller 
in particular established some rules of great importance. 

§ 3. The Relation to Christianity. 

So close on the publication of Ottfried Miiller's Prolegomena 
as not to be fundamentally affected by it, came Strauss's epoch- 
marking Leben Jesu (1835), after Dupuis the first systematic 
application of mythological science to the Christian system. For 
several generations the mythical principle had been partially applied 
by German scholars to matters of current belief : the stimulus of the 
English deistical school having borne fruit more continuously among 

1 E.g. that of the Dog-Star, p. 135. 2 P. 18 : cp. p. 19. 

3 Pp. 171, 175, 206, and previously in his Orcliomenos (1820). 

4 Cited by Miiller, p. 270, from the introduction to the Symbolik. 

5 History, end of oh. 1. 

6 It must always be kept in mind that the worship which has given rise to a given 
mythus has itself arisen out of a previous mythus, on a different plane of conception. 
See below, ch. iii, § 1, end, and compare Bergmann, Le Message de Skirnir et les Bits de 
Grimnir, 1871, p. 3. 


them than elsewhere. Deistical in spirit the movement remained ; 
but it had all the easier a course ; and the line of thought entered on 
by the school of Eichhorn, following on Heyne and Reimarus, was 
not even blocked, as was the case in England and France, by the 
reaction against the French Revolution. The Old Testament narra- 
tives, of course, were first dealt with ; but so fast did criticism go that 
as early as 1802 there was published by G. L. Bauer a treatise on 
the Hebrew Mythology of the Old and New Testaments. The latter 
work is noteworthy as already laying down the principle that it is 
of the highest importance to compare the myths of different races, 
thereby to learn how parallels may stand not for identity of matter, 
but for similarity of experience and way of thought among men of 
a given culture-stage. 1 It also affirms in so many words that "the 
savage animizes all things (denht sich alles belebt), for only what 
lives can act, and thus he personifies all." 2 But in his interpreta- 
tions Bauer still follows the early rationalist method of reducing 
mythic episodes to exaggerations or misconceptions of actual events; 
and he makes little advance on Semler, who had connected the 
Samson myth with that of Hercules as early as 1773. 3 Much if 
not most of the German " rationalism " of the latter part of the 
eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth century is thus 
vitiated by the fixed determination to reduce mythic narratives to 
misinterpretations of real events. In Paulus the method approaches 
burlesque. Hence a discredit of the school and even of the name. 

A generation later, whereas Keightley in producing the first 
edition of his Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy (1831) could 
say that "in selecting mythology" he "took possession of a field 
which [in England] lay totally unoccupied," 4 the Germans had a 
whole library of treatises compared with which even his much 
improved second edition was but a respectable and prejudiced 
manual. So far had free scholarship travelled at a time when the 
teachers of the insular and stipendiary Church of England 5 were 
declaring that " infidelity" was no longer associated with scholarly 
names. While English theology and philosophy, under ecclesiastical 
auspices, were at an absolute standstill, German thought was apply- 
ing rational tests, strenuously if imperfectly, to nearly every depart- 
ment of traditional knowledge. The progress, of course, was 
halting and uncertain at best. Strauss has shown 6 how vacillating 

1 Hebraische Mythologie, 1802, Vorrede, pp. iv. v. 

2 Id. i, 17. 8 Id. ii, 81. 4 Pref . to 2nd edition, 1838. 

5 " The priest-ridden kingdom of the leopards" was Alexander Humboldt's label for 
England in the early part of the century. 

6 Das Leben Jesu, Einleitung, § 6, 8-11. 


and inconsistent were most of the innovators in their advance; 
how they were always trying to limit their concession, attempting 
first to explain miracles as natural events, then admitting myth to a 
certain extent, seeking for each myth a historical basis, striving to 
limit the field of myth to early times, trying later to draw a line 
between the Old Testament and the New, and next to admit myth 
as regards only the infancy of Jesus — always compromising in the 
interests of faith, or of simple peace and quietness. Yet so early as 
1799 an anonymous writer on " Revelation and Mythology " had 
substantially set forth Strauss's own thesis, that "the whole life of 
Jesus, all that he should and would do, had an ideal existence in the 
Jewish mind long prior to his birth"; and between this and the 
more limited treatment of details by intermediate writers the world 
was partly prepared for Strauss's own massive critical machine. 

And yet, though the formidable character and effect of that is 
the theme of an abundant literature, it was not a decisive force, 
even for theoretical purposes. On the side of mythological science 
it was defective in that it overlooked many of the Pagan myth- 
elements in the Christian cult, above all those bound up with the 
very central doctrine of theanthropic sacrifice and eucharist ; and 
this by reason of a too exclusive attention to Judaic sources. It 
dealt with the salient item of the Virgin-birth in the light of general 
mythology; but it ignored the connecting clue of the numerous 
ancient ritual cults of a Divine Child. It showed the incredibility 
and the irreconcilable confusions of the resurrection story ; but it 
did not bring forward the mythic parallels. As regards the process 
of mythic accretion, it did not properly apply the decisive documen- 
tary test that lay to hand in the Pauline epistles. At many points 
Strauss is Evemeristic even in condemning Evemerism, as when he 
decides the historic reality of John the Baptist to be certain, and 
the story of the Sermon on the Mount to be in the main genuine, 
though manipulated by Matthew in one way and by Luke in 
another. Dealing with the obviously mythical story of the betrayal 
by Judas, he never realizes the central preposterousness of the 
narrative, 1 and treats it as history. On the side of philosophy, 
again, he strikes a scientific reader dumb by his naive assurance 
that his long investigation of the life of Christ need have no effect 
on Christian doctrine. " The inner kernel of the Christian faith," 
he writes in his preface, " the author knows to be entirely inde- 
pendent of his critical researches. Christ's supernatural birth, his 

1 Cp. The Myth of Judas Iscariot, in the author's Studies in Beligious Fallacy; and 
see below, Part III, Div. i. § 21. 


miracles, his resurrection and ascension, remain eternal truths, 
however far their reality as historical facts may be put in doubt. 
Only the certainty of this can give calmness and weight to our 
criticism, and distinguish it from the naturalistic criticism of 
previous centuries, which aimed at upsetting the religious truth 
along with the historical fact, and so necessarily came to conduct 
itself frivolously. The dogmatic import (Gehalt) of the Life of 
Jesus will be shown by a dissertation at the end of the work to be 
uninjured." There are different conceptions of what constitutes 
frivolity ; and it would have been pleasant to have Voltaire's 
estimate of the seriousness of a scholar and theologian who produced 
an enormously laborious treatise of fifteen hundred pages to disprove 
every supernatural occurrence connected with the life of Jesus, and 
at the beginning and end assured everybody that it all made no 
difference to religion, and that those must be frivolous who thought 
otherwise. Only in Hegelian Germany could such supernatural 
flimsiness of theory have been conceived as solid philosophy ; and 
even in Germany, in the generation of Hegel, there was a good deal 
of serious 1 if not frivolous comment on Strauss's final Kantian 
advice to the clergy. This was, to keep on telling the mythical 
stories to the people with due attention to the spiritual application, 
thereby furthering the " endless " progress towards the dissolution 
of the forms in the consciousness of the community — and this in a 
work in the vernacular. Mr. Arnold gravely if not bitterly com- 
plained that Colenso ought to have written in Latin, though 
Colenso's avowed purpose was to put an end to deception. He 
might a good deal more relevantly have given the advice to Strauss, 
whose work he not very ingenuously exalted in comparison. 

It was not unnatural that such a teaching should leave the 
practice of Christendom very much where it found it. If the 
" rational " critic felt as Strauss did after fifteen hundred pages of 
destructive argument, there was small call for the priest to alter his 
course. And what has happened in regard to the mythology of both 
the Judaic and the Christian systems is roughly this, that after the 
mythical character of the quasi- supernatural narratives had been 
broadly demonstrated, specialist criticism, instead of carrying out 
the demonstration and following it up to its conclusions in all 
directions, has fallen back on the textual analysis of the documents, 
leaving the question of truth and reason as much as possible in the 
background. Later work on Hebrew mythology there has been, but 

1 E.g., Julius Miiller On the Theory of Myths, far. in Voices of the Church against 
Strauss, 1845, pp. 176-7. 


not, as before, on the part of professed theologians ; and even that, 
as we shall see, is to a considerable extent unconvincing, thus 
failing to counteract the arrest of the study. On the professional 
Biblicists it seems to have had no practical effect, their lore being 
at least kept free of any specific acknowledgment. 1 One surmises 
that this process of restriction turns upon one of selection in the 
personalities of the men concerned. It would seem impossible that 
after Strauss and Baur and Eenan and Colenso the stronger and 
more original minds could deliberately take up theology as of old ; 
and as a matter of fact no minds of similar energy have appeared in 
the Churches since that generation completed their work. For Baur 
we have Harnack ; for Bishop Colenso Bishop Barry ; the Bishop 
Creightons meddling with none of these things. The powerful 
minds of the new generation do not take up orthodox theology at 
all ; the business is for them too factitious, too unreal, too essentially 
frivolous. So we get a generation of specialists devoutly bent on 
settling whether a given passage be by P or P 2 , by the Yahwist or 
the Elohist, the Deuteronomist or the Eedactor, the Jerusalem 
Davidian, or the other, or the Saulist or the Samuel- Saulist — an 
interesting field of inquiry, very well worth clearing up, but forming 
a singular basis on which to re-establish the practice of taking that 
mosaic of forgery and legend as the supreme guide to human 
conduct. Of course this is the only species of rational criticism 
that can be pursued in theological chairs even in Germany ; so that 
even if a professor recognizes the need for a moral and intellectual 
criticism of the Judaic literature, he must be fain to confine himself 
to documentary analysis and platitudes. But the dyer's hand seems 
to be subdued to what it works in. Even in our own day, men 
engaged in the analysis tell us that the scribes and interpolators 
dealt with really had supernatural qualifications after all. 2 It thus 
appears that when the higher criticism has done its work, the higher 
common-sense will have to take up the dropped clues of mythology 
and conduct us to a scientific sociologico-historical view of religious 
development. The textual analysis is a great gain ; but to end with 
textual analysis is to leave much of the human significance of the 
phenomena unnoticed. 

So with the mythology of the New Testament and the ritual 
usages of the Churches. In that regard also we now hear little of 
the element of myth, but a good deal of the composition of the 

1 This judgment ceases to hold good since the publication of Hugo Winckler's 
Geschichte Israels (1900). 

2 See Canon Driver's Introduction to the Study of the Old Testament, 1st ed. pref. p. xv. 


gospels ; and men supposed to know the results of that analysis are 
found treating as great spiritual truths, special to Christianity, data 
and doctrines which appertain to the systems and credences of 
buried Paganism. The men capable of realizing the seriousness of 
the fact either remain outside the Church or follow Strauss's counsel 
inside. The undertaking to frame a psychological presentment of 
the "real Jesus" is still seriously pursued, albeit the documentary 
analysis does not leave even a skeleton for the accepted historical 
figure, wherewith to materialize the silent spectre of the Pauline 
epistles. Thus Evemerism is still the order of the day as regards 
the Christian mythus ; and people who are supposed to possess a 
sound culture, including the results of mythological science, are 
often almost entirely ignorant of any bearings of Comparative 
Mythology on the gospels, even though they may have learned to 
disbelieve in miracles. Mythological science has been prudently 
restricted to other fields, spiritually remote from modern faith and 
ritual. The principle seems to be that of the legendary preacher 
who, when arranging with a brother cleric to take his place, warned 
him against speaking on capital and labour, as the congregation 
included some large employers, or on temperance, as there were 
some brewers ; but added that "for a perfectly safe subject he might 
take the conversion of the Jews." Mythology is kept perfectly safe, 
and made to figure as an academic science, by being kept to the 
themes of the Dawn, the Tree, the Storm-Cloud, the Earth-Mother, 
and the heathen Sun-God; to Sanskrit, savagery, totems, fairies, 
and Folk-lore, plus the classics. 

Chapter II. 


§ 1. The Meteorological, Etymological, and Solar Schools. 

WHILE, however, our science has thus faltered and turned back on 
those of its paths which come the straightest and the nearest to 
living interests, it has not been idle or altogether ill-employed. 
Even as the textual analysis of the Jewish and Christian sacred 
books lays a solid foundation for the mythologist of the future, so 
the modern schools of mythology, in tracing out the Comparative 
Method, with whatever laxities of logic and psychology, have been 
making the way easier for successors who will not submit to any 
restriction of their field. While Strauss, Colenso, and Kenan were 
successively disturbing the peace of the Church without much resort 
to the mass of mythological lore, new and professed mythologists 
were beginning anew, and with more or less of scientific bias, the 
presentment of mythological science so-called, with hardly any 
avowed recognition of its bearing on current creeds. Unfortunately 
the schools are thus far much at issue among themselves, by reason 
mainly of their differing ways of restricting the application of the 
Comparative Method. Kuhn, who in Germany began the new 
investigation on the basis of the Vedas, was an acute or rather 
ingenious theorist along particular lines of myth-phenomena, his 
tendency being to reduce all myths to those of the phenomena of 
storm-cloud, wind, rain, and lightning. To Kuhn, however, belongs 
the honour of inaugurating the new Comparative Mythology in 
terms of the affiliation of Greek God-names to Sanskrit ; x and his 
brother-in-law Schwartz, who had collaborated with him in collecting 
the Norddeutsche Sagen (1848), did real service to the science by his 
analyses and explanations of nature-myths in his Ur sprung der 
Mythologie (i860) ; though he also sowed the seed of much separatist 
fallacy by predicating a " pre-religious " period "older than the Gods," 
in which poets and priests had not yet given the Gods personalities- 
About the same period in England Max Miiller founded a separate 
"Aryan" school, standing mainly on the solar principle as against 
the storm-system of Kuhn ; and inasmuch as this was but a setting 

1 Steinthal, The Original Form of the Legend of Prometheus, Eng. tr. with Goldziher, 
pp. 363-5; E. H. Meyer, Indoger. Mythen, 1883, i, 1. 



of one myth-type in place of another, the scientific advance was not 
great. On one side, indeed, there was retrogression. At the very 
outset of his work in 1856, Miiller thought fit to insist that " as far 

as we can trace back the footsteps of man we see that the divine 

gift of a sound and sober intellect belonged to him from the very 
first ; and the idea of a humanity emerging slowly from the depths 
of an animal brutality can never be maintained again." 1 Three years 
later was published The Origin of Species, followed in 1871 by The 
Descent of Man. But Miiller's conception of mythology was now 
fully shaped. Proceeding further mainly on the supposed primor- 
diality of Sanskrit, and preoccupied with the philological problems 
set up by any comparison of Sanskrit and Greek God-names, he 
elaborated the theory of Creuzer and Welcker as to verbal confusions, 
putting it that myths in general originated in a "disease of 
language," 2 and that, the disease once developed — like the pearl in 
the oyster or the wart on the skin — it remained fixed in the 
languages derived from the given stem. The disease consisted in 
the primitive tendency to make proper names out of names for 
phenomena, the embodiment of genders in all names having the 
effect of setting up the habit of thinking of natural objects as 
animate and sexual. It is surprising that such a theory should ever 
be formulated without the theorist's seeing that the problem is 
shifted further back at once by the bare fact that the genders were 
attached to the words to begin with. Had Miiller merely claimed 
that in some cases a myth arose as it were at second-hand by the 
misunderstanding of a name, he might have made out a reasonable 
case enough ; for certain racial and geographical and other myths 
can best be so explained. And when he wrote that "nothing is 
excluded from mythological expression; neither morals nor philo- 
sophy, neither history nor religion, have escaped the spell of that 
ancient sibyl. But mythology is neither philosophy, nor history, 
nor religion, nor ethics," 3 he was putting a true conception which 
transcends the limitary principle of " disease of language." At the 
same time he declared that " mythology is only a dialect, an ancient 
form of language." Yet in the previous sentence he had, like his 
namesake Ottfried, repudiated Heyne's formula, " ab ingenii humani 
imbecillitate et a dictionis egestate "; substituting the anti-evolu- 
tionary " ab ingenii humani sapientia et a dictionis abundantia " — 

WorkshTlZ *iR«n^f l° l0 %(: in 0xford ¥ 88a V.l< i 856 ' p - 5 ! . C P- chi *> 8 f ro ™ a German 
tiS" ?; t v,' o e, '\ 8 ;J h i- passage ends with the phrase "such unhallowed imputa- 

2 » tit Jt ^ e reprmt the adjective becomes " gratuitous. : 
lancuaS ?» tB*„ ~ hicb ^ a ! * be ba ^ of the ancien * world, is in truth a disease of 
language. Lectures on the Science of Language, 3rd ed., p. 11. Cp. p. 240. 

8 Essay on Comparative Mythology, end. 



as if it were sapientia to confuse the meanings of words. Thus the 
false principle overrides the true : the sound conceptions passed on 
by Muller himself have received development only at other hands ; 
and for lack of correlation in thinking he has repeatedly assailed his 
own positions ; though, conscious of having held them, he was at 
times ready to resume them. Hence his attempts, under stress of 
controversy, to show that his doctrine was not what straightforward 
opponents represented it to be have not only brought upon him some 
criticisms of much asperity, but have plunged the subject in extreme 
confusion. At times he has seemed to concede that the philological 
position is too narrow. After describing comparative mythology as 
" an integral part of comparative philology," 1 he protested that he 
had " never said that the whole of mythology can be explained " as 
11 disease of language," claiming only that " some parts of mythology " 
are " soluble by means of linguistic tests." 2 Yet he seems later to 
oscillate between the extreme view and the broader; 3 and he says in 
so many words that it is a pity that Comparative Mythology has 
got into any hands save those of Sanskrit scholars. 4 Nor have his 
attempts to subsume Schleiermacher's philosophy of religion into 
his mythology been more fortunate ; the philosophy and the psycho- 
logy are alike inexpert ; and not a little of his philological mythology 
is unsatisfying in detail, apart from all other issues. In particular, 
certain etymologies which Muller represented as scientifically 
certain — e.g., the equations between gandharva and kentauros (Kuhn), 
Erinnys and saranyu, Daphne and Ahana — have been rejected 
as unsound by Mannhardt and others, as Mr. Lang is always 
reminding us. 

In all probability this reaction has in turn gone too far ; and 
latterly we find E. H. Meyer, in his Indogermanische Mythen, hold- 
ing to the gandharva-kentauros equation against his master, Mann- 
hardt. Pure philology was after all Muller's specialty ; and he will 
probably stand on that when he has fallen on other issues. Next 
to his metaphysic and his psychology, it is his confidence of concrete 
myth-interpretation in terms of names that most weakens his 
authority. Most candid mythologists will admit that they are apt 
to put too much faith in their own explanatory theories : that they 
can hardly help coming at times to conclusions on a very incomplete 
induction. But Muller never lost the confidence with which he 
solved his early problems, while his readers, on the other hand, 
have in many cases lost the contagion. And this criticism applies 

1 Id. as first cited, p. 86. 2 Introd. to Science of Religion, ed. 1882, p. 252. 

3 Natural Religion, 1889, pp. 22, 24. 4 Id. p. 484. 


in some degree to the brilliant performance of his most powerful 
English disciple, the Eev. Sir George Cox. That excellent scholar's 
Mythology of the Aryan Nations (1st ed. 1870), the most vivid and 
eloquent work in mythological science, was constructed on the 
assumption that the " Aryan " heredity was decisively made out 
once for all on the old lines ; and that the whole mythology of the 
races covered by the name is a development from one germ, or at 
least from a family of germs, found in the " Vedic and Homeric 
poets." In his second edition he admitted that since he wrote fresh 
proof had been given of the " influence of Semitic theology on the 
theology and religion of the Greeks "; but such an admission does not 
scientifically rectify the theoretic error embodied in his original thesis. 
Anthropological as well as mythological research, following on 
the lines marked out by Fontenelle and De Brosses, had been 
showing not merely Semitic influences on Greeks, but (l) an inter- 
play of many other influences, and (2) a singular parallelism in the 
mythology of races not known to have had any intercommunication. 1 
These facts supplied reason for a recasting of the mythological 
scheme, by way of recognizing that there is more than " one story " 
in hand, and that though "the course of the day and the year" 
covers a great deal of the matter, there are some other principles 
also at work. Further, Sir George Cox quite needlessly grafted 
Miiller's overbalanced theory of " disease of language " on his 
exposition. Miiller on his part had classed his disciple as belonging 
to another school than his own — the Analogical as distinct from the 
Etymological 2 — and Sir George might profitably have made the 
same discrimination. For his own part he had rightly represented 
the primitive " savage " as necessarily personifying the things and 
forces of nature : to him they " were all living beings : could he help 
thinking that, like himself, they were conscious beings also ? His 
very words would, by an inevitable necessity, express this convic- 
tion." 3 For this " necessity " Sir George could quote Miiller; but 
instead of noting that such a proposition dismissed a fortiori the 
theorem of " disease of language," he went on to include the latter, 
apropos of the principle of Polyonymy (or multiplying of names for 
the natural elements), which needed no such backing. With his 
usual candour he proceeded to cite the trenchant comment of 
M. Baudry, who in his essay De V interpretation mythologique 

1 See Schirren's Die Wander 'sagen der Neuseelcinder und der Mauimythos, 1856, and 
Tylor's Researches into the Early History of Mankind, 1865, p. 326. 

2 Natural Religion, pp. 484, 492. 3 Mythology of the Aryan Nations, ed. 1882, p. 21. 
4 Published in the Revue Germanique, Fev. 1, 1868. 


countered Miiller before the " Hottentotic " school did. As Baudry 
pointed out, there was no " disease of language " in the case of 
secondary myths arising out of polyonymy, but simply failure of 
memory or loss of knowledge, such as may happen in the case of a 
symbolic sculpture as well as of an epithet. Sir George's solution 
was that " after all there is no real antagonism " between the two 
accounts of the matter — a mode of reconciliation rather too often 
resorted to by Miiller on his own account. There is certainly " no 
real antagonism " if only Muller's erroneous formula be dropped, 
and Baudry's substituted ; but as it happens Muller's, instead of 
undergoing that euthanasia, is still made to cover far more ground 
than Baudry's pretends to touch. 

In other countries the linguistic misconception had a hampering 
effect even on good scholarly research, as in the case of the work of 
M. Breal, Hercule et Cacus : etude de mythologie comparee (1863). 
It is there laid down that " Never was the human race in its 
infancy, however vivacious and poetic may have been the first sallies 
of its imagination, capable of taking the rain which watered the 

earth for the milk of the celestial cows, nor the storm for a 

monster vomiting flames, nor the sun for a divine warrior 

launching arrows on his enemies, nor the roll of the thunder for the 

noise of the aegis shaken by Jupiter Whence came all these 

images, which are found in the primitive poetry of all the Aryan 
peoples ? From language, which creates them spontaneously with- 
out man's taking care {sans que Vlnomme y prenne garde)." If this 
be true, early man never really personified anything ; but his more 
highly evolved posterity did, merely because he had seemed to do 
so. In other words, the early man knew the sun to be inanimate 
though his language made him call it a person ; and his descendants 
consequently regarded it as a person when they were able to describe 
it as inanimate. Here we have Heyne's old conception of a species 
of allegorizing which was inevitable and yet not believed in — a 
theorem more puzzling than the phenomena it explains. 

In the circumstances it was natural that there should arise an 
anthropological reaction against the Sanskritist and " Aryan " 
school, with its theory of family germs and inherited disease of 
language ; its forcing of a philological frame upon a psychological 
science ; and its assumption that we can trace nearly every myth 
with certainty to a definite natural origin. So many myths are 
inconsistent with themselves ; so many are but fumbling explanations 

1 Work cited, p. 8. 


of ancient rituals of which the meaning had been lost ; so many 
have been touched up ; so many embody flights of imagination that 
are not mere transcripts from nature ; so many are primitively 
stupid, so many have been combined, that such confidence is visibly 
excessive ; and there are always plenty of cool heads pleased to 
shatter bubbles. But there is more than mere conservatism arrayed 
against the confident lore of Muller and the brilliant ingenuity of 
Sir George Cox : there is the solid opposition of students who, 
finding myths just like those of the " Aryans " among all manner of 
savages, proceed to show that what is represented as exquisite 
fancy among early Aryans is on all fours with the clumsy tales of 
Dyaks and Hottentots, and that the interpreters are putting more 
into many Aryan myths than their framers did. 

§ 2. The Movement of Anthropology : Tylor. 

To such criticism a powerful lead was given by Dr. E. B. Tylor's 
Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865) and Primitive 
Culture (1871), which colligate much of the anthropological science 
on which alone a sound mythology can be founded. At the outset, 
indeed, Dr. Tylor ranks himself among the adherents of Kuhn and 
Max Muller, 2 significantly coupling their names, though Muller had 
rejected Kuhn's interpretations in terms of cloud and storm and 
thunder, preferring to stake everything on the sun. But besides 
bringing into correlation many terms of folk-lore, Dr. Tylor added 
to the keys already on the mythologist's bunch that of the " Myth 
of Observation," showing by many instances how the discovery of 
peculiar remains had given rise to fabulous interpretation, as in the 
case, already noted by Darwin, of the savage theory that the large 
animals whose skeletons are found underground must have been 
burrowers. 3 By including such ideas under the concept of myth, 
Dr. Tylor was usefully pointing towards the general truth that all 
myth is but a form of traditionary error ; and in his later work on 
Primitive Culture he further widened the conception, guarding against 
Muller 's limitary view, and pronouncing " material myth to be the 
primary, and verbal myth to be the secondary formation." 4 Again, 
while inconsistently separating mythology from religion, 5 he expressly 
recognized that " the doctrine of miracles became as it were a bridge 
along which mythology travelled from the lower into the higher 

1 See Tylor, Primitive Culture, 3rd ed. i, 306, as to some of the conditions under which 
primitive invention is developed. 

* Researches into the Early History of Mankind, 1865, pp. 298, 326. 

8 Compare the interesting case of the twisted Celtic swords, set forth by S. Reinach in 
his Cultes, Mythes, et Religions, iii (1908), 141 sq. 

4 Primitive Culture, 3rd ed. i, 299. 5 Id. p. 285. 


culture. Principles of myth formation belonging properly to the 
mental state of the savage, were by its aid continued in strong action 
in the civilized world" 1 — restricting his instances, of course, to 
mediaeval Catholicism. Finally, in his summary of " the proof of 
the force and obstinacy of the mythic faculty," he supplied a very 
suggestive list of its modes : — 

" In its course there have been examined the processes of animating and 
personifying Nature, the formation of legend by exaggeration and perversion 
of fact, the stiffening of metaphor by mistaken realization of words, the 
conversion of speculative theories and still less substantial fictions into 
pretended traditional events, the passage of myth into miracle-legend, the 
definition by name and place given to any floating imagination, the adapta- 
tion of mythic incident as moral example, and the incessant crystallization of 
story into history." 2 

The main logical or scientific flaw in the exposition is one that 
almost corrects itself — the separation from all this of the study of 
11 Animism," which is separately handled as the basis of Natural 
Eeligion. Obviously Animism is involved in the very first of the 
processes above specified as constituting myth — the animating and 
personifying of Nature. This is admitted in the earlier announce- 
ment, in the first chapter on Mythology (ch. viii), that the doctrine 
of Animism " will be considered elsewhere as affecting philosophy 
and religion, but here we have only to do with its bearing on 
mythology." But here Animism is one thing or process, Mythology 
another, and Eeligion yet another ; the two latter ranking as separate 
departments or processes of intellectual life, and being merely acted 
on by the first. Such a position marks the limit to the direct service 
rendered by Dr. Tylor to the science of mythology and of hierology, 
though his indirect service is unlimited. To make further progress 
we must recast the psychological concept and statement, recognizing 
that Animism, Mythology, and Eeligion are alike but aspects of the 
general primitive psychosis ; and that while we may conveniently 
make any one of the three names cover aspects of the primary 
phenomena, it is a fallacy to make them stand for three faculties or 
provinces of intellectual life. Such a conception is only one more 
unscientific severance of unity, yielding no analytic gain of clearness, 
but rather obscuring the problem. So much seems to be felt by 
Dr. Tylor when in his concluding chapter he remarks that " Among 
the reasons which retard the progress of religious history in the 
modern world, one of the most conspicuous is this, that so many of 
its approved historians demand from the study of mythology always 

1 Id. p. 371. a Id. p. 416. 


weapons to destroy their adversaries' structures, but never tools to 
trim and clear their own." 1 Unfortunately the schematic fallacy 
rather than the implications of the comment tends to stand as the 
author's authoritative teaching ; and in one other regard Dr. Tylor 
regrettably endorses a separatist view of primitive thought. Con- 
cluding his exposition of Animism, 2 he writes that 

" Savage animism is almost devoid of that ethical element which to the 
educated modern mind is the very mainspring of practical religion. Not, as 
I have said, that morality is absent from the life of the lower races. With- 
out a code of morals, the very existence of the rudest tribe would be im- 
possible ; and indeed the moral standards of even savage races are to no 
small extent well-defined and praiseworthy. But these ethical laws stand 
on their own ground of tradition and public opinion, comparatively indepen- 
dent of the animistic beliefs and rites which exist around them. The lower 
animism is not immoral, it is unmoral." 

By this deliverance Dr. Tylor has kept in countenance an anti- 
evolutionary sociology. The use of the word "comparatively" 
shows a half-consciousness of the essential error of the proposition. 
Obviously the animistic beliefs and rites themselves stand on 
" tradition and public opinion ": and the tradition and public opinion 
in all cases alike subsist in virtue of being those of the same series 
or congeries of peoples or persons, whose ethic tells of their religion 
and mythology, and whose religion and mythology are part of the 
expression of their ethic. 3 The fallacy under notice reveals itself in 
the spurious antithesis between "unmoral" and " immoral." That 
distinction may perhaps at times be serviceable in the discrimination 
of character-types ; but in the present connection it is untenable. 
Confusion of this kind begins in the common error of making 
11 morality " or " morals " equate with " goodness," as if there were not 
such a thing as bad or inferior morality. Where modern writers talk 
of religion as being " independent of " or " divorced from " morality, 
they really mean either that religious motives have corrupted 
morals, or that a given religion embodies bad or one-sided morality. 
And both of these explanations hold in the case of savage religion, 
where the principle of propitiation no less than that of magic is a 
standing hindrance to moral progress. The reflecting power of most 
savages is at best so imperfect at many points that one anthro- 
pologist roundly asserts that " morality in our sense " cannot exist 
among them. 4 And though their " categorical imperative " can be 
powerful enough where it comes into play, it often takes no account 

1 Id. ii, 447. 2 Ch. xvii, vol. ii, p. 360. 

3 Cp. Schultze, Der Fetischismus, 1871, pp. 43-46, 55. 4 Schultze, as cited, p. 46. 


of many things which in civilized ethics are reckoned primordial. 1 
This means, not that their code is " independent of " morality, but 
simply that it is extremely ill-developed. And their religion is 
correlative to it. A low ethic, to begin with, shares in the shaping 
of a low religion, and the prestige of religion tends to fix the low ethic. 
It results that a new religion whose shapers are scrupulous upon 
some points of conduct seems to be introducing a new correlation. 
In reality it is bringing to bear a higher as against a lower ethic ; 
and it in turn will be found at points to defy the higher ethical 
tests. Somewhere, however, it is coterminous with the ethic of 
many or most of those who adhere to it ; and this is the case with 
the religion of the savage no less than with the religion of the 

On this as on other historical issues, Christian presuppositions 
promote and maintain confusion even among non-theological 
inquirers. Thus Mr. J. C. Lawson, in his valuable work on Modem 
Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Beligio?i (1910) , 2 pronounces con- 
cerning ancient ethic that " seemingly religion and morality were to 
the Greek mind divorced, or rather had never been wedded. Religion 
was concerned only with the intercourse of man and god : the 
moral character of the man himself and his relations with his fellows 
were outside the religious sphere " — a strange deliverance from a 
Greek scholar. The only justification offered for it is the familiar 
thesis : " Indeed, it would have been hard for the ancients to regard 
morality as a religious obligation, when immorality was freely 
imputed to their gods." Here, in effect, " morality " is limited to 
the sphere of the sexual relation ; and the proposition is valid only 
in the sense in which it holds good of the Christian religion. If it 
is true that the tales of the Greek Gods countenanced sex licence, it 
must be no less true that the tales of Yahweh countenanced murder, 
massacre, fraud, and iniquitous tribal fanaticism ; and that the 
Christian doctrine of salvation is antinomian. Is Christianity then 
divorced from ethics ? 

Mr. Lawson airms the contrary. Dwelling on the bias of 
eastern religion to hysteria, involving lawlessness, he goes on : " If 
then morality was ever to be imposed and sanctioned by religion, a 
wholly new religion had to be found. This was the opportunity of 
Christianity." He concedes, in view of the Second Epistle to the 
Corinthians, that " it was difficult to bring the first converts to the 
new point of view," 3 implying that success was attained later. Yet 

i See the details cited by Schultze, pp. 47-55. a P. 40. a P. 40. 


in the next breath he freely admits that " The frailties of the Greek 
character remain indeed such as they always were ": adding only the 
plea, " but now religion at least enjoins, if it cannot aliuays enforce, 
the observance of a moral code which includes the Eighth Com- 
mandment (!) " The thesis has utterly collapsed. Why the 

Eighth Commandment should be stressed in this connection it is 
hard to guess. By Mr. Lawson's own account, the lacking com- 
mandment of the decalogue is still lacking in Greece : " Honesty 
and truthfulness are not the national virtues. To lie or even to steal 
is accounted morally venial and intellectually admirable." 1 So that 
religion and morality remain " divorced " in Christian Greece after 
eighteen hundred years of Christianity ! Whether Dr. Tylor con- 
templated this deduction is doubtful. In any case, it falls to the 
rationalist, in the name of mere science, to end the confusion by 
pointing out that moral incoherence, in late and early societies alike, 
means not separation between religion and morality, but their con- 
fluence on a low mental level. 

And even this solution is not rightly realized if to the recognition 
of the lowness of the moral level in so many religious minds, early 
and late, we do not join the remembrance that ethic, like every other 
aspect of human life, is but a gradual transmutation of primordial 
animal tendencies, in which beauty grows from a lowly root, fed by 
unpleasing things. Love itself has all its roots — parenthood, sex, 
friendship — in the animal world. A rigid ethicism is apt to exclude 
the living sense of this truth, even in professed evolutionists. Thus 
there is reason to deprecate, even in the admirable study of Greek 
religious evolution by Miss Harrison, the rigid assertion that " the 
ritual embodied in the formulary do ut des is barren of spiritual 
content," while that of do ut abeas " contains at least the recognition 
of one great mystery of life, the existence of evil." 2 In the daily life 
of men a conscious reciprocity which begins as do ut des, " I give that 
thou may est give," can be and historically has been, for individuals 
and for the race, the matrix of a more loving and lovely sympathy, 
for normal sympathy must have been "born of usage. 3 If this holds 
of the reciprocities of men, it should in theory, when we are classi- 
fying grades of religious belief, be recognized in the case of the 
imagined reciprocities of men and Gods. And why we should proceed 
to certificate as something higher the religion of fear, of do ut abeas, 

1 P. 31. 

2 Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, by Jane Ellen Harrison, 2nd ed. 1908, 
introd. p. xii. Cp. pp. 3, 7. 

3 Compare Miss Harrison's own comment, p. 3, on the unfairness of Sokrates in the 


" I give that thou mayest remove hence," is hard to understand. 
This is, in fact, the earlier and cruder form of religion, the growth 
of a stage anterior to formal reciprocity. This is the very stage 
of religion which Dr. Tylor pronounced "unmoral": so surely does 
one error of classification entail other and contrary errors. The 
justification offered for the new classification is surely fallacious. 
To suppose that people who maintained a form of human reciprocity 
with the Gods did not recognize the existence of evil is but to make 
one more illicit severance in the tissue of mental life. To be 
conscious of the constant presence of evil asa" mystery " is perhaps 
to be more ethically sensitive than is he who turns his back on it 
when possible, either to sigh or to enjoy the moral sunshine ; but 
again we are dealing merely with variations of balance and tempera- 
ment ; and when we recall how for ages the religion of fear has 
blotted out the sun and steeped man's earth in blood, the ethical or 
"spiritual" discrimination under notice is apt to seem fantastic as 
a classification of human progress. 

Once more we turn for safe scientific footing to the scientific 
method, from which Dr. Tylor for once in a way diverged, with all 
these sequelae of contradiction and incoherence. Christian pre- 
possessions must no longer be allowed to obscure the manifold yet 
simple process of psychic evolution. As we shall see, a mythologist 
as separatist as Dr. Tylor himself on the question of religion and 
mythology is able to controvert him as regards his separation of 
religion and ethic. Always the trouble is arbitrary classification 
and limitation, illusory opposition set up between two aspects of a 
coherent process ; and we seem to be delivered from one obstacle 
only to collide with another, set up by the deliverer. 

§ 3. A priori Evolutionism : Spencer. 

The fatality is peculiarly striking in the case of the greatest 
co-ordinating thinker of his time, Herbert Spencer. Coming in the 
due course of his great undertaking to the problem of the evolution 
of religious beliefs, he does indeed necessarily posit unity in the 
psychological basis of credences, having already well established the 
psychic unity of the thinking faculty or process from its lowest to 
its highest stages. But with all the results of Comparative Mythology 
thus far before him, Spencer decided to make all religious concepts 
pass through the single ivory gate of Dreams, reducing all forms of 

1 Compare, however, Dr. Flinders Petrie's sketch of the type by whom "Evil is hated 
so really that the thought of it, or anticipation of it, is instinctively avoided " {Personal 
Religion in Egypt before Christianity, 1909, p. 19), 


the God-idea to a beginning in the primitive idea of ghosts or souls. 1 
Here, indeed, the primitive Welt-Anschauung is envisaged as all of a 
piece ; but the manifold of myth and worship is traced to the root 
of a single mode of error. Thus mythology is poised on a single 
stem, where inductive research shows it to have had many ; and 
where in particular the study of animal life, which Spencer was so 
specially pledged to take into account, reveals a general propensity 
prior to that special development on which he rests the whole case. 

Thus again the science of Mythology, which is the basis of the 
science of Hierology, is confronted by a principle of schism, as the 
result of a great thinker's determination to shape the doctrine of 
evolution in terms of his own specific thought, to the exclusion or 
subordination of other men's discoveries. Dr. Tylor had fully 
recognized the play of the ideas of ghost and soul in ancestor- 
worship, and the bearing of ancestor- worship on other forms ; but 
he had also recognized as a primary fact the spontaneous personifi- 
cation by early man of objects and forces in Nature. Spencer on 
his side escaped the false dichotomy between ethics and religion ; 
and he rightly brings myth and religion in organic connection ; yet 
his forcing of all myth-sources back to the one channel of ancestor- 
worship and the conception of ghosts has given as large an oppor- 
tunity to reaction as did any of the limitary errors of professed 
mythologists before him ; and specialists with anti-scientific lean- 
ings, who set up a false separatism where he does not, are able out 
of his fallacy to make capital for a fresh version of supernaturalism. 

On the constructive side, Spencer's service is clear and great. 
He has given new coherence to the conception of the inter-play of 
subjective and objective consciousness in primitive thought. No 
one, again, has better established the principle of continuity in the 
process of intelligence. Where Muller, in the act of insisting on the 
presence of the "divine gift of a sane and sober intellect" in the 
lowest men, yet represented them as getting their myths by sheer 
verbal blundering, Spencer rightly stipulated that all primitive 
beliefs are, "under the conditions in which they occur, rational." 2 
Where other students had either waived the relation of the higher 
theology to the lower, or used the language of convention, he 

i Principles of Sociology, 1876-82, §§ 52-204. 

2 Id. § 52. This, it should be noted, was clearly put by Fontenelle two hundred years 
ago; and from him the principle was accepted by Comte, who esteemed his work. The 
word " rational," of course, must not be held to imply that the beliefs were always reached 
by a process of reasoning. Many myths— e.g., those of the South Pacific— often have the 
air of mere remembered dreams ; and Spencer, insisting on a dream-origin for ghosts, 
should have dwelt on this possibility. But the dream, once recounted, was believed in 
by such reasoning faculties as savages possessed. 


consistently traces one process of traditionary error from first to 
last. Where professed mythologists continue expressly to differen- 
tiate Hebrew from all other ancient credences, he decisively asks 
whether " a small clan of the Semitic race had given to it super- 
naturally a conception which, though superficially like the rest, was 
in substance absolutely unlike them ?"* And yet his limitary treat- 
ment of the animistic process has enabled partizans of that other 
order, who see abnormality in Hebrew lore and who describe the 
myth-making process as " irrational," to turn his error to the 
account of theirs — this though the correction of his fallacy had been 
clearly and conclusively made by a student of his own school, and 
had been indicated before him by other evolutionists. 

§ 4. The Biological Correction. 

The point at issue is fully indicated by Spencer himself when he 
argues 2 that sub-human animals distinguish between the animate 
and the inanimate, though for them motion in objects is apt to 
connote life ; that the ability to class apart the animate and the 
inanimate is inevitably developed by evolution, 3 since failure would 
mean starvation ; and that accordingly primitive man must have 
had a tolerably definite consciousness of the difference, 4 and cannot 
be supposed to confound the animate and the inanimate " without 
cause." Hence he must have had a fresh basis for his known 
Animism ; and this came by way of his idea of ghost or soul, 
reached through his dreams. 5 

But on the face of his own argument, Spencer has gone astray. 
If motion be a ground for Animism with animals, and if the instinct 
be passed on to primitive man with the burden of effecting a closer 
discrimination among things, many of , the phenomena of Nature 
were thrust upon him without his having the knowledge needed to 
make such discrimination. For him, the sun, moon, and stars, the 
clouds, the rain, the winds, the rivers, the sea, the trees and plants, 
were all instances of more or less unexplained motion. What 
should he do, then, but personalize them ? That problem had been 
put and the answer given by both Comte and Darwin, who lay to 
Spencer's hand; yet he overrides their reasoning as he overrides 
the crux. 

Darwin's clue is given in his story of how his dog, seeing an 
open parasol suddenly moved by the wind, growled at it as he would 

1 Id. § 202. 2 id. § 61. 3 Id. § 64, 

4 Id. § 65. 5 Id. § 73. 


at a suddenly appearing strange animal. 1 This clue is systematically 
developed in the essay of Signor Tito Vignoli on Myth and Science 
(1882), where Spencer's theory is respectfully but firmly treated as 
a revival of Evemerism ; and where myth is shown to root in the 
animal tendency in question, on which Signor Vignoli had carefully 
experimented. 2 And it would not avail for Spencer to reply that he 
had already avowed the tendency of the animal to associate life with 
motion, but that this cannot lead to a fetichism which animizes the 
non-moving. In stating the case as to the animal he had already 
admitted fetichism in so far as fetichism consists in animizing inani- 
mate things which are moved* Thus his statement that fetichism is 
shown by both induction and deduction to follow instead of preced- 
ing other superstitions is already cancelled. It is a self-contradiction 
for him to argue that the savage, being unable to conceive separate 
properties, is unable to imagine " a second invisible entity as causing 
the actions of the visible entity." 4 One answers: Quite so. The 
savage makes no such detour : he sees or feels motion, to begin 
with, and takes for granted its quasi-personality : it is only on the 
ghost-theory, as its author admits, that he assumes " two entities." 
And having begun to ascribe personality where there is motion with- 
out consciousness, he might proceed to ascribe personality or con- 
sciousness where there is no motion, though on this issue we may 
grant the ghost-theory to have a special footing. But the essential 
point is that to sun, moon, and stars, to winds and waters, to trees 
and plants, the savage is spontaneously led to ascribe personality, 
in so far as he speculates about them. 

Here Spencer has providently set up another defence, in the 
proposition 5 that it is an error to conceive the savage as theorizing 
about surrounding appearances ; that in point of fact the need for 
explanations of them does not occur to him. This is certainly borne 
out in a measure by much evidence as to lack of speculation on the 
savage's part ; but the solution is simple. He theorizes about the 
forces that affect or seem to affect him; else why should he ever 
reach animism at all, with the ghost-iclea or without it ? The dog, 
which animizes the suddenly moved stone in his kennel, probably 
does not animize the wind and the rain, unless they should become 

1 Descent of Man, ch. iii, 2nd ed. i, 145. 2 Work cited, ch. n. 

3 Strictly, fetichism as we know it is a comparatively advanced spiritism, in which 
objects are regarded as temporarily inhabited by special God-forces. In the text the word 
is used in a more general sense. On the other hand, the thesis that fetichism amounts to 
pantheism (Miss Kingsley, West African Studies, ed. 1901, pp. 101-4) will not bear analysis, 
Fetichism negates pantheism as does polytheism. Cp., however, Bastian, Der Mensch 
in der Geschichte, 1860, ii, 18-23. 
J Principles of Sociology, § 163. Id. § 46. 


violent, 1 or the river, the light, and the darkness ; and it may be 
that many savages could also go through life without doing so on 
their own account. 2 But the simple noting that the sun rises and 
sets, if followed by any speculative reflection whatever, must by 
Spencer's own admission involve the animizing of the sun by the 
early savage, who has acquired no knowledge enabling him to explain 
the sun's motion otherwise ; and that is the gist of the dispute. 
That ghost ideas when formed should affect and develop prior 
animistic ideas is likely enough : what must be negated is the 
proposition that they are the absolute or sole matrix of all mythology 
and superstition. 

Thus rectified, Spencer's teaching, complemented by all the data 
of anthropology and mythology, gives the true form or standing- 
ground for mythological science. Taking myth as a form of 
traditionary error, we note that such error can arise in many ways ; 
and when we have noted all the ways we have barred supernaturalism 
once for all, be it explicit or implicit. Unfortunately the rectification 
has been ignored by those mythologists who are concerned to retain 
either the shadow or the substance of supernaturalism ; and until 
the naturalist position is restated in full, four-square to all the facts, 
they will doubtless continue to obscure the science. 

The old fatality, indeed, is freshly illustrated with an almost 
startling force by Signor Vignoli, the corrector of the psychology of 
Spencer. His thesis includes the perfectly accurate propositions 
that w the mythical faculty still exists in all men, independently of 
the survival of old superstitions, to whatever people and class they 
may belong," 3 and that it is "in the first instance identical and 
confounded with the scientific faculty." 4 That is to say, a myth is 
a wrong hypothesis made to explain a phenomenon, a process, or 
a practice. And with a fine unconsciousness Signor Vignoli supplies 
us later on with a sheaf of such hypotheses of his own. Christianity, 
he tells us, citing his Dottrina razionale del Progresso, " was originally 
based on the divine first Principle, to which one portion of the 
Semitic race had attained by intellectual evolution, and by the 
acumen of the great men who brought this idea to perfection "; and 
again, " the Semitic people passed from the primitive ideas of 
mythology to the conception of the absolute and infinite Being, 
while other races still adhered to altogether fanciful and anthropo- 

1 Cp. Vignoli, pp. 57-67. 

2 Cp. P. B. Jevons, Introd. to the Hist, of Belig., 1896, p. 19 and citations. After stressing 
this truth for his immediate purpose, Dr. Jevons arrives (p. 410) at a complete contradiction 
of it— for another purpose. 

3 Work cited, p. 3. 4 Id. p. 33. 


morphic ideas of the Being." 1 Here be old myths : in point of fact 
the Jewish God ivas anthropomorphic, and was not an " absolute 
idea"; and monotheistic doctrine was current in Egypt long before 
the Semites had any. Or, if " Semites " had the idea as early as 
Egyptians, they were certainly not the Hebrews. On the other 
hand, Signor Vignoli is so oblivious of the facts of comparative 
mythology as to consider it a specially " Aryan " tendency to desire 
a Man-God. 2 He has forgotten that Attis and Adonis and Herakles 
and Dionysos, all of Semitic manufacture, have been as much Man- 
Gods as Jesus ; and he has no suspicion that Samson and half-a- 
dozen other figures in the Bible had been Man-Gods 3 till they were 
Evemerized by the Yahwists. 

But there is an element of new myth in Signor Vignoli's state- 
ment over and above these historic errors : he pictures the " Semitic 
and Chinese races " as having " soon freed themselves from their 
mental bonds " in virtue of the fact that their " inner symbolism of 
the mind" was "less tenacious, intense, and productive." All 
this is simply sociological myth : the reduction of a vast and 
incoherent complex to an imaginary simplicity and unity of move- 
ment. To generalize " the Semite " and " the Aryan " as doing this 
and that is but to make new myths. Such a phrase as : the idea 
of Christianity arose in the midst of the Semitic people through him 
whose name it bears," is merely literary mythology ; and " the intel- 
lectual constitution of the race " is a psychological myth. Signor 
Vignoli, in fine, has taken over without scrutiny a group of current 
historical myths, including the current conception of the Gospel 
Jesus, and the Kenan myth that " the Semites " lacked the faculty 
for mythology ; 4 and to these he has added fresh sociological and 
psychological and literary myths in the manner of Auguste Comte. 
He even becomes so conventionally mythological as to rank among 
the "peculiar characteristics" of "our" [the "Aryan"] race, a 
proud self-consciousness, an energy of thought and action, a constant 
aspiration after grand achievements, and a haughty contempt for all 
other nations." 6 As if the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, 
the Hebrews, 6 the Eskimos, and the Eijians lacked the endowment 

l Id. p. 175. 2 Id. p. 181. 

3 Goldziher indeed writes (Mythology among the Hebrews, Eng. tr. p. 248), that Samson 
never got so far as to be admitted, like Herakles, into the society of the Gods." But this 
view is completely negatived by the records of the worship of Samas or Samsu in the 
Babylonian system. Herakles is late in joining the Greek Gods because he is an imported 
hero. Samson in the Bible has been Evemerized into a mortal. 

4 The thesis is really much older than Eenan. See J.J.Wagner, Ideen zu einer allge- 
meine Mythologie der alten Welt, 1808. When Renan committed himself, the Babylonian 
mythology had not been recovered. Signor Vignoli accepts the myth with the Babylonian 
mythology before him. 

5 Id. p. 180. 6 Cp. Goldziher, pp. 250-7. 


in question. Evidently we must set the mythologist to catch the 

§ 5. Fresh Constructions, Reversions, Omissions, Evasions. 

Happily, gains continue to be made, despite aberrations ; and 
while general principles are being obscured in the attempts to state 
them, new researches are made from time to time with so much 
learning and judgment as to give solid help towards clearing up and 
re-establishing the general principles. Of such a nature, indeed, are 
most of the first-hand researches of the past generation into the 
beliefs, rites, and practices of the contemporary lower races. It is 
safe to say, further, that every systematic survey of Mythology has 
served to clear up some details as well as to facilitate the recognition 
of general law by later students. This holds good of J. F. Lauer's 
posthumous System der griechischen Mythologie (1851), though it 
sets up a superficial classification in defining Mythos as a w T onderful 
story dealing with a God, and Sage as a story dealing with men. It 
holds good of the Griechische Gbtterlehre of Welcker ; of the admir- 
ably comprehensive Griechische Mythologie and Bomische Mythologie 
of Preller ; of the eminently sane and scholarly Mythologie de la 
Grece Antique of M. Decharme ; of the brilliant Zoological Mythology 
of Signor de Gubernatis ; of the astronomical and other studies of 
Mr. Eobert Brown, Jr. ; of Goldziher's Hebrew Mythology, despite 
the undue confidence of some of its interpretations (as that Joseph 
is certainly the Eain, Jacob the Night, and Eachel the Cloud) ; of 
the theorem of the historical critics that Eachel and Leah and their 
handmaids may be myths of tribal groups and colonies ; and of a 
multitude of general surveys and monographs — notably the admirable 
collection of papers by M. Salomon Eeinach, Cultes, Mythes, et 
Religions (1908, 3 torn.) — down to the monumental Ausfilhrliches 
Lexihon der griechischen und rbmischen Mythologie, edited by Dr. 
Eoscher. Yet probably no survey is yet sufficiently comprehensive ; 
and even the most masterly researches are found at times to set up 
obstacles to the full comprehension of the total mythological process. 

No more truly learned monograph has ever been written in 
mythology than Dr. Frazer's Golden Bough. 1 Proceeding partly on 
the memorable researches of Mannhardt, which as usual were 
ignored in England till long after they were accepted elsewhere, and 
partly on those of the late Professor Eobertson Smith, it connects 
Mannhardt's and Smith's data with a vast mass of cognate lore, and 

- 1 1890, two vols.; 2nd ed. expanded, 1900, three vols. ; new ed., recast in separate treatises, 
now in course of production. 


constructs a unitary theory with signal skill and subtlety. In Dr. 
Frazer's hands a whole province of mythology becomes newly 
intelligible ; and henceforth multitudes of cases fall easily into line 
in terms of a true insight into primitive psychology. But there 
accrues in some degree the old drawback of undue limitation of 
theory. Eightly intent on establishing a hitherto ill-developed 
principle of mythological interpretation, the cult of the Vegetation 
Spirit, 1 Dr. Frazer has unduly ignored the conjunction — seen deduc- 
tively to be inevitable and inductively to be normal — between the 
concept of the Vegetation-God and that of others, in particular the 
Sun-God. He becomes for once vigorously polemical in his attack 
on the thesis that Osiris was a Sun-God, as if that were excluded 
once for all by proving him to be a Vegetation-God. The answer is 
that he was both ; and that such a synthesis was inevitable. 

A few unquestioned facts will put the case in a clear light. 
Mithra, who, so far as the records go, was primordially associated 
with the Sun, and was thereby named to the last, is mythically born 
on December 25, clearly because of the winter solstice and the 
rising of the constellation of the Virgin above the horizon. Dionysos 
and Adonis, Dr. Frazer shows, are Vegetation-Gods. Yet they too 
are both born on December 25, as was the Babe-Sun-God Horos, 
who however was exhibited as rising from a lotos plant. 2 Now, why 
should the Vegetation- God be born at the winter solstice save as 
having been identified with the Sun-God? 3 Again, Dr. Frazer very 
scientifically explains how Dionysos the Vegetation- God could be 
represented by a bull ; animal sacrifices being a link between the 
Vegetation- Spirit and the human sacrifice which impersonated him. 
But then Mithra also was represented by a bull, who is at once the 
God and his victim ; also by a ram, as again was Dionysos. Yet 
again, Yahweh and Moloch were represented and worshipped as 
bulls; and it would be hard to show that they were primarily 
Vegetation-Gods, though Yahweh does, like Dionysos, appear in 
the bush." Now, the mere identification of different Gods with the 
same animal, however different might be the original pretexts, would 
in the ancient world inevitably lead to some identification of the 
cults ; even were it not equally inevitable that the Sun should be 

1 The recognition of this, indeed, is not new, being clearly enough made in the 
Geschichte der amerikanischen Urreligionm of J. G. Mtiller (2te Aufl. 1867) as regards 
certain old Mexican cults; but the principle had not been properly brought to bear 
on mythology in general before Mannhardt. 

2 See hereinafter, Christ and Krishna, § 12. 

3 It is noteworthy that Apollo had two birthdays— at the winter solstice for the Delians, 
and at the vernal equinox for Delphi. Emeric-David (Introduction, p. cvi.) sets down the 
latter to the jealousy of the Delphian priests. It probably stands for another process of 



recognized as a main factor in the annual revival of vegetation. In 
the case of Osiris there is the further obvious cause that Isis, his 
consort, is an Earth-Goddess, this by Dr. Frazer's own admission. 
The God must needs stand for something else than the Goddess his 
spouse. For Dr. Frazer, finally, the sun enters the vegetation cult 
as standing for the fire stored in the sacred fire-sticks. 1 But to 
assume that only in that roundabout way would primitive man 
allow for the obvious influence of the Sun on vegetation, is to shut 
out one of the most obvious of the natural lights on the subject. 
Once more the expert is unduly narrowing the relations under which 
he studies his object. 

Such questions come to a focus when we bring comparative 
mythology to bear on surviving religion. The whole line of Dr. 
Frazer's investigation leads up, though unavowedly, to the recog- 
nition of the crucified Jesus as the annually slain Vegetation-God 
on the Sacred Tree. But Jesus is buried in a rock-tomb, as is 
Mithra, the rock-born Sun-God ; 2 and it is as Sun-God that he is 
born at the winter solstice ; it is as Sun-God (though also as carrying 
over the administrative machinery of the Jewish Patriarch 3 ) that he 
is surrounded by Twelve Disciples ; it is as Sun-God that, like 
Osiris, he is to judge men after death — a thing not done by Adonis ; 
it is as Sun-God passing through the zodiac that he is represented 
successively in art and lore by the Lamb and the Fishes ; and it is 
as Sun-God that he enters Jerusalem before his death on two asses 
—the ass and foal of one of the Greek signs of Cancer (the turning- 
point in the sun's course), on which Dionysos also rides. 4 The 
Christ cult, in short, was a synthesis of the two most popular Pagan 
myth-motives, with some Judaic elements as nucleus and some 
explicit ethical teaching superadded. Not till Dr. Frazer had done 
his work was the psychology of the process ascertained. 

Such is the nature, indeed, of the religious consciousness that it 
is possible for some to recognize the exterior fact without any 
readjustment of religious belief. To the literature of Christian 
Origins there has been contributed the painstaking work, Monumental 
Christianity, or the Art and Symbolism of the Primitive Church as 
Witnesses and Teachers of the one Catholic Faith and Practice, by 
John P. Lundy, "Presbyter" (New York, 1876). Its point of view 
is thus put by its author in his preface : " It is a most singular and 

i Id. ii, 369, ed. 1890. 2 See Pawn Christ s, Part III, § 7. 

3 See the author's Studies in Beligious Fallacy, pp. 164-5; also hereinafter, Part III, 
The Gospel Myths, 1st Div. § 19. 

4 Lactantius, Divine Institutes, i, 21. See hereinafter, Part III, The Gospel Myths, 
1st Div. § 18. 


astonishing fact, sought to be developed in this work, that the 
Christian faith, as embodied in the Apostles' Creed, finds its parallel, 
or dimly foreshadowed counterpart, article by article, in the different 
systems of Paganism here brought under review. No one can be 
more astonished at this than the author himself. It reveals a unity 
of religion, and shows that the faith of mankind has been essentially 
one and the same in all ages. It furthermore points to but one 
Source and Author. Eeligion, therefore, is no cunningly devised 
fable of Priest-craft, but it is rather the abiding conviction of all 
mankind, as given by man's Maker." On the other hand the author 
holds by the Incarnation, as being " a more intelligible revelation 
than Deism, or Pantheism, or all that mere naturalism which goes 
under the name of Eeligion." 1 Thus the good presbyter's con- 
scientious reproductions of Pagan emblems serve to enlighten others 
without deeply enlightening himself, albeit he has really modified 
at some points his old sectarian conception. 

What Mr. Lundy imperfectly indicates— imperfectly, because he 
has taken no note of many Pagan works of art which are the real 
originals of episodes in the Gospels — has been set down with great 
theoretic clearness by M. Clermont-Ganneau in his L'Imagerie 
Phenicienne et la mijthologie iconologique chez les Grecs (1880). It 
is there shown, fully if not for the first time, how a mere object of 
art with a mythological purport (as in a group or series of figures), 
passed on from one country to another, may give rise to a new 
myth of explanation, and may attach to a God of one nation stories 
which hitherto belonged to another nation. This theory, which 
M. Clermont-Ganneau ably establishes by some clear instances, has 
probably occurred independently to many inquirers : 2 in any case it 
is a principle of the most obvious importance, especially in the 
investigation of the myths of the Gospels. Quite independent 
corroboration of the theory comes from students of the rock-paintings 
and folk-lore of the Bushmen of South Africa, among whom the 
colligation of myths with pictures which had no mythological 
purpose is seen arising in a quite natural fashion. 3 

As against these important advances, there is to be noted a 
marked tendency on the part of philologists to revert to etymology 

1 Work cited, p. 11. 

2 The derivations of Christian myths from Pagan works of art hereinafter offered were 
all made out before I had seen or heard of the work of M. Clermont-Ganneau. See again 
fi;£ iqIo 11 S £ e& / r den . G ottesdienst des Nordens wiihrend der Heidenzeit (1876), Ger. 
il n 11 • ' *?' ,V f ,°, r , aa . la <|ependent statement of the principle. It is endorsed, again, 
in Collignon s Myt hologie figuree de la Grece, 1884, pp. 113-4. See also the R. T. S. 
Antiquities of Egypt, 1841, p. 65, and cp. S. Reinach, CiUtes, Mythes, et Religions, i, 346. 

™ ioo 6 ! The Nattve Baces °f South Africa, by G. W. Stow, ed. by G. M. Theal, 1905, 


as the true and perfect "key to all mythologies." Thus the 
Erkldrung alios Mythologie of Herr F. Wendorff (Berlin, 1889) is 
wholly in terms of the supposed root-meanings of names in ancient 
myth ; and the Prolegomena zur Mythologie als Wissenschaft, und 
Lcxihon dcr Mythensprache of Dr. P. W. Forchhammer (Kiel, 1891) 
turns on the same conception, with, however, a further insistence on 
Ottfried Miiller's doctrine that it is necessary to study the myth in 
the light of the topography of its place of origin. Dr. Forch- 
hammer's motto runs : " Only through the knowledge of the local 
and chronological actualities in myths, and through the knowledge 
of the myth-language of the Greek poets, is the hidden truth of the 
my thus to be discovered." The criticism of such claims is (l) that 
all myths tended more or less to find acceptance in different 
localities, with or without synthesis of local topographical details — 
even Semitic myths finding currency and adaptation in Greece ; and 
(2) that the hope to reach certainty about the original values of 
mythic names all round is vain. Some have an obvious meaning : 
concerning others philologists are hopelessly at variance. We must 
seek for broader grounds of interpretation if we are to comprehend 
the bulk of the phenomena at all. 

Finally, account must be taken, in any professedly systematic 
survey, of the play of a principle which in some hands is indeed 
much overstrained, but which certainly entered largely into ancient 
religion and symbol, that of phallicism. While some inquirers 
exaggerate, others evade the issue. But science cannot afford to be 
prudish ; and in this particular connection prudery ends in facilitating 
nearly every species of general error above dealt with. That the 
subject can be handled at once scientifically and instructively has 
been shown by the massive work of General Forlong, entitled Bivers 
of Life (1883), in which the evolution of religious ideas is presented 
in broad relation with the general movement of the species. It is 
clear, indeed, that every line of research into human evolution is 
fitted to elucidate every other; and that there will be no final 
anthropological science until the intellectual and the material 
conditions of the process are studied in their connections throughout 
all history. Every problem of religious growth in a given society 
raises problems of economics and problems of political psychology. 
Thus far, however, we are hardly even within sight of such a socio- 
logical method as regards mythology. There it is still necessary to 
strive for the application of ordinary scientific tests as against the 
pressures of conservatism and mediatory reaction. 


§ 6. Mr. Lang and Anthropology. 

The protagonist, if not the main body, of the mediatory school 
is Mr. Andrew Lang, whose Custom and Myth (1884) and Myth, 
Ritual, and Religion (1889, revised ed. 1899) set forth his earlier 
views of the subject, otherwise condensed in his article on Mythology 
in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Written with a vivacity which 
sometimes irritates scholars on the other side, 1 and with a limpidity 
which is no small advantage in controversy, Mr. Lang's books make 
amends for setting up needless friction, by the fresh impulse they 
give to mythological study. In large part they stand on the sure 
ground of evolution and comparative anthropology ; and they do 
unquestionably make out their oft-reiterated main thesis, that myth 
has its roots in savage lore and savage fancy, and that all bodies of 
myth preserve traces of their barbarous origin — a proposition 
specially applied by Mr. Lang to certain of the cruder Greek myths, 
such as that of Kronos and Saturn, concerning which a variety of 
" explanations " have been offered by mythologists. This main 
position no one now seems to dispute. 2 If there is any positive 
counter-theory, it is to be found in Mr. Lang's own later and 
obscurer argument that a high " religion " arises in the most 
primitive stage of life, either in or out of connection with a faculty 
possessed by the very same savages for " supernormal" knowledge 3 
— a theory so completely out of relation with his earlier exposition 
of Mythology that, to understand or expound the latter, we must for 
the time keep them apart. Taking his earlier mythology by itself, 
we can credit it with coherence and a general reasonableness. 
While, however, Mr. Lang may on this score claim to have estab- 
lished all he sought negatively to prove, he in turn is open even 
there to some criticism, not only for the method of his handling of 
the point supposed to be in dispute, but for his failure to carry 
out to its proper conclusions the evolutionary principle by which he 
professes to abide. It is thus necessary to rectify the course of the 
science by calling in question some of his doctrine. 

To begin with, Mr. Lang has in the opinion of some of us over- 
stated the stress of the difference between his point of view and that 
of the solar school. He has been over-solicitous to create and 

1 See Professor Regnaud's Comment naissent les mythes ? 1898, p. xvii. 

2 It has been laid down not only by Fontenelle but by such an influential modern 
writer as Benjamin Constant, who put in the forefront of his great treatise the proposition 
that "la plupart des notions qui constituent le culte des sauvages se retrouvent 
enregistrees et consolidees dans les religions sacerdotales de l'Egypte, de l'lnde, et de la 
Gaule." Be la Beligion, 1824, pref . p. ii. 

3 Cp. in the author's Studies in Beligioics Fallacy, the paper, Mr. Lang on the Origin 
of Beligion, and the Appendix. 


continue a state of schism. As a matter of fact, his main tenet is 
not only perfectly compatible with most of their general doctrine, 
but implicit in that. Inasmuch as Sir George Cox and Max Miiller 
more or less definitely accept the principle of evolution in human 
affairs, the former in particular constantly comparing savage myth 
and folk-lore with the classic mythologies, there is no good ground 
for saying that they ignore or reject the anthropological method. 
Sir George expressly points to the primeval savage as the first and 
typical myth-maker ; and he uses phrases similar to Mr. Lang's 
concerning the ' psychological condition " of early man. But Mr. 
Lang is always charging upon that school a positive rejection of 
anthropological science. Quoting 1 Fontenelle's phrase, "It is not 
science to fill one's head with the follies of Phoenicians and Greeks, 
but it is science to understand what led Greeks and Phoenicians to 
imagine these follies," he goes on : "A better and briefer system of 
mythology could not be devised ; but the Mr. Casaubons of this 
world have neglected it, and even now it is beyond their compre- 
hension." Now, as we shall see, Fontenelle's sentence may really 
be made an indictment against the method and performance of Mr. 
Lang himself ; but it certainly does not tell against Sir George Cox, 
who, as the leading English exponent of a system of (implicitly) 
universal mythology, would naturally figure for Mr. Lang's readers 
as a typical " Mr. Casaubon " in this connection. The whole 
purpose of Sir George Cox's work is to " understand what led 
Greeks and Phoenicians to commit these follies ": the only trouble 
is that, in the opinion of Mr. Lang and some of the rest of us — 
though we do not all go as far in Pyrrhonism as Mr. Lang — certain 
of his keys or clues are fanciful. Where Mr. Lang has made of 
these divergences a ground for challenging the whole body of the 
work, he was entitled only to call in question given interpretations. 
Mr. Lang on his own part really seems unable to see the wood for 
the trees. 

There is absolutely nothing in Sir George's works that is in- 
compatible with Fontenelle's doctrine as to the origination of 
mythology among primitive and savage men : on the contrary, that 
is more or less clearly implied all through them. Indeed, those of 
us who came to the study of mythology as evolutionists, taking 
Darwin's theory as substantially proved, found no more difficulty, 
apart from problems of interpretation, in Sir George Cox's pages than 
in those of Dr. Tylor, where the mental life of savages is the special 

1 Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. ii, 324, App. A ; 2nd ed. ii, 343. 


theme. In this connection the idea dated back at least a century, 
to Heyne, with his derivation of the my thus " ab ingenii humani 
imbecillitate et a dictionis etjestate" so much objected to by K. O. 
and Max Miiller. We took savage origins as a matter of course, 
and were puzzled to find Mr. Lang in chapter after chapter insisting 
on this datum as if it were a struggling heresy, ignored or opposed 
by all previous mythologists. Nay, we were the more puzzled, 
because while Sir George Cox, clergyman and theist as he was, led 
us definitely through mythology into or at least up to the reigning 
religion, carrying the principle of evolution further than we could 
well expect him to do, Mr. Lang not only shows himself more of an 
a priori theist than Sir George, but definitely refuses to apply the 
evolution principle beyond certain boundaries. Instead of seeking 
above all things to " understand what led Greeks and Phoenicians 
to commit these follies," he again and again flouts attempts at 
explanation, and falls back on the simple iteration that " all this 
came from savages," which is no explanation at all, but merely a 
statement of the direction in which explanation is to be sought. 
Part of his grievance against other schools is that they are too ready 
with explanations. When he does accept an explanation that goes 
beyond totemism, he has often the air of saying that it is hardly 
worth troubling about. Let us take his own definition of his point 
of view : — 

" It would be difficult to overstate the ethical nobility of certain Vedic 
hymns, which even now affect us with a sense of the ' hunger and thirst 
after righteousness ' so passionately felt by the Hebrew psalmists. But all 
this aspect of the Vedic deities is essentially the province of the science of 
religion rather than of mythology. Man's consciousness of sin, his sense of 
being imperfect in the sight of ' larger other eyes than ours,' is a topic of the 
deepest interest, but it comes but by accident into the realm of mythological 
science} That science asks, not with what feelings of awe and gratitude the 
worshipper approaches his gods, but what myths, what stories, are told to or 
by the worshipper concerning the origin, personal characteristics, and personal 
adventures of his deities. As a rule, these stories are a mere chronique 
scandaleuse, full of the most absurd and offensive anecdotes, and of the 
crudest fictions . " 2 

It is odd that a writer of Mr. Lang's general tone should thus 
explicitly maintain that one of his chosen specialties consists mainly 
in the collection or study of absurd and offensive anecdotes. 3 He is 

1 While retaining this passage in the revised (1899) edition of his earlier work, Mr. Lang 
complains, in his Making of Beligion (1898), about "that strangely neglected chapter, that 
essential chapter, the Higher beliefs of the Lowest savages'* (p. 183). Cp. the attack on 
Huxley's teaching, p. 191. 

2 Myth, Bitual, and Religion, 1st ed. ii, 129; 2nd ed. ii, 152. 

3 Sir George Cox, in a note (p. 19) on an early article by Mr. Lang, justly enough protests 
that "the great body of Vedic, Teutonic, or Hellenic myths is not silly, gross, obscene, 
disgusting, and revolting "; but on this we may let Mr. Lang have his way, if it comforts him. 


surely doing himself an injustice. However that may be, it is clearly 
on him if on any one that there falls, pro tanto, the rebuke of 
Fontenelle : It is not science to fill one's head with the follies of 
Phoenicians and Greeks." 

On this head, it cannot be too emphatically said that Mr. Lang's 
sundering of religion from mythology, his proposition that they come 
together only "by accident," or that "mythological science" has 
nothing to do with the ethical purport or colouring of myths, is as 
arbitrary as anything that has been said on the other side of the 
discussion. 1 Mythology as defined by him is not a science at all, 
but mere mythography. Two assertions on this head I shall under- 
take to support, despite the formidable authority of Dr. Tylor and 
Mr. Lang, who, as it happens, differ on one issue while concurring 
on the other. 

1. Primeval myth and primeval ethic are all of a piece : the 
primitive man's mythology is in terms of his ethic as well as of his 
science, his logic, his imagination, such as these are. 2 

2. Whatever purification, modification, and sophistication of 
myth takes place in later ages is largely the outcome of the pressure 
of a more advanced ethic on the old myth lore, which on the side of 
form or bare statement is otherwise apt to be blindly reiterated, 
especially in the absence of authoritative science. Where that is 
developed, it may cause further inventions and modifications. 

A partial if not complete contradiction of these propositions is 
given in Mr. Lang's later theorem — to be dealt with hereinafter — 
that the lowest savages are found holding together a high-grade 
religious theory and a low-grade mythology ; and that the former is 
probably the earlier development. But even on that view, which 
is demonstrably fallacious, it would seem clear that to set aside as 
" accident " the ethical elements or bearings of mythology is to 
throw away an essential part of the explanation of " what led the 
Greeks and Phoenicians to commit these follies," and what led them 
to put a different face on them. 

Nor is that all. The spirit of Fontenelle's remark carries us 
beyond the search for the bare explanation of the groups of pagan 

1 Mr. Lang's disciple, Canon MacCulloch, who follows him in his theory of the moral 
elevation of the first God-ideas of primitive man, avows that "mythology is wrapped up 
with religion everywhere" (Religion: Its Origin and Forms, p. 5). Cp. p. 87, where the 
avowal that " both mythology and a great part of religious belief and worship spring from 
one common source" is confused by the absurd proposition that "religion and mythology 

are two separate affairs but so much intermixed and blended that it is impossible to 

discriminate between tliem." 

2 Save in so far, that is, as savages, like civilized people, vary in mental type. Serious 
and frivolous savages might well frame myths of a different cast. But as we see in all 
ages a profession of austere religious belief conjoined with unscrupulous or frivolous 
practice, we must credit savages with similar inconsequence, explaining it by the human 
brain structure. 


myths : it sets us upon tracing the whole connection of mythology 
with social and intellectual life, with historical religion, with ethics 
and philosophy as affected by historical religion. In the words of 
Ottfried Miiller, we must " ascend on the ladder of facts to a know- 
ledge of internal being and life." Broadly speaking, there were no 
11 accidents " in these matters save in the strict logical sense that in 
certain cases there is an intersection of causal connections. It is 
true that it is not the mythologist's business to discuss the develop- 
ment and variation of reasoned and written religious doctrine, as 
apart from narrative bases and symbols. That is the work of the 
hierologist ; not that the subjects are separate, but that it is 
necessary to make a division of labour. But to put aside the mass 
of written theology, the argumentative side of the later historical 
systems, is one thing ; and to keep out of sight the vital connections 
and reactions of myth and doctrine is quite another. The one 
respect in which Mr. Lang's books on Mythology and Keligion are 
consistent is that in each in turn he looks only at one side of the 
shield — a course so arbitrary and so confusing that it can be explained 
only in terms of some extra-scientific bias. At the beginning of the 
historic period, ethics and religion are everywhere inseparably 
blended with myth ; and in so far as religion has remained bound 
up with myth and with primitive ethic down to our own day, when 
rational ethic has definitely broken away from the old amalgam, it 
is supremely important and supremely interesting to trace not merely 
the earlier forms of myth, ritual, and religion, but their conjunct 
development into and survival in the latest forms of all. To stop 
short of that, as Mr. Lang and so many other mythologists do, is 
wilfully to impoverish and humble the science, keeping it always 
concerned with " the follies of Phoenicians and Greeks," always 
among the ancients or the Hottentots, always out of sight or even 
surmise of the bearings of these matters on the creeds and institutions 
of the civilized nations of our own day. 1 

After all his iterations about the origination of myths in 
savagery, it is perplexing, if we cannot call it astonishing, to find 
Mr. Lang repudiating for religion the fundamental principle of all 
mental science, on which he has so zealously staked his case in 
mythology. Modifying the uncompromising dictum above quoted, 
but still adhering to his arbitrary division of things, he writes in 
another chapter concerning Greek myths that 

"it must be remembered that, like all myths, they have far less concern 

1 "Christian conduct and faith," writes Mr. Lang, "are no longer affected by the 
answers" we give to questions about myth origins. Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. 1, 1. 


with religion in its true guise — with the yearning after the divine which { is 
not far from any one of us,' after the God ' in whom we live, and move, and 
have our being ' — than with the religio, which is a tissue of old barbarous 
fears, misgivings, misapprehensions. The religion which retained most of 
the myths was that ancient superstition which is afraid of ' changing the 
luck,' and which, therefore, keeps up acts of ritual that have lost their 
significance in their passage from a dark and dateless past." 1 

It would appear from these variations of statement that Mr. Lang 
has not thought out his position ; and when we compare them — 
retained as they are in the revised edition of his earlier work — with 
his subsequent book on The Making of Religion, which inclines to 
credit primeval savages with a high-grade religion and a "pure" 
ethic, 2 and to explain their mythology as a later excrescence on 
these 3 — when we put all the propositions together, the lack of 
sequence becomes bewildering. In any case, putting aside for the 
moment the oddly haphazard assertion in the last sentence of the 
passage before us, we are driven to note that very soon after drawing 
a line between the science of religion and that of mythology, and 
claiming to stand only in the latter's province, he here undertakes, 
in the merest obiter dictum, to lay down the law as to what con- 
stitutes the "true guise" of religion, just as he repeatedly imputes 
" sacerdotage" to many phases of the religions of Egypt and India. 
And we are bound to observe that, whether from his own point of 
view or from ours, that is none of his affair as a mythologist. In 
this regard he is doing exactly what he charges on the other mytho- 
logists — taking an a priori point of departure instead of going to the 
comparative history of the facts. At the outset he professes to 
stand on the evolutionist basis now common to the sciences, making 
no reservation of any department of mental life. But when he has 
gone a certain distance he asserts not only that "the question of 
the origin of a belief in Deity does not come within the scope of a 
strictly historical inquiry," but that "no man can watch the idea of 
God in the making or in the beginning." 4 If this be true, to what 
purpose is all Mr. Lang's polemic ? What is the meaning of the 
title of his last treatise, "The Making of Eeligion"? If we cannot 
watch the God-idea in the making, neither can we watch religion or 
myth in the making. To speak of " the beginning " is neither here 

1 Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. ii, 65 ; 2nd ed. ii, 186. 

2 Making of Religion, pp. 175, 185, 206, 208, 211, 235, 273, 289, 309, 334. 

3 Id., pp. 280, 281, 290, 309. This view again is virtually quashed on p. 199. 

4 Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. i, 307; 2nd ed. i, 305. I do not gather that in the 
revised edition Mr. Lang abandons this particular sentiment, though he explains (p. 307) 
that his opinions have become more emphatic as to the remote antiquity of both the 
purer religion and the "puzzling element of myth." Compare The Making of Religion, 
p. 43, as to " beginnings." 


nor there, for the proposition must hold equally of myth, since, as 
Mr. Lang goes on to say, " We are acquainted with no race whose 
beginning does not lie far back in the unpenetrated past." In other 
words, the " beginnings " of myth, as we have seen, are pre-human, 
in terms of the theorem of Darwin and Vignoli, with which Mr. 
Lang never deals. Then — though Mr. Lang will here dissent — the 
God-idea must be in similar case ; and Mr. Lang indeed proceeds to 
admit that " the notions of man about the Deity, man's religious 
sentiments, and his mythical narratives, must be taken as we find 
them." Then is it argued that at no stage do we find myth " in 
the making"? What else do we find when we compare successive 
stages of the mythology of any one people? And what had Mr. 
Lang meant when he said previously 1 that "we are enabled to 
examine mythology as a thing of gradual development and of slow 
and manifold modifications, corresponding in some degree to the 
various changes in the general progress of society"? 

Such attempts at the separation of growths that are visibly 
confluent and complementary are necessarily abortive. We not 
only take myths " as we find them," but we try to understand how 
they came to be there and to be so : even Mr. Lang tries, albeit 
fitfully. And as old myths, commonly so called, are either directly 
or indirectly God-myths, they are among the first data for the 
history of the God-idea, and their history is part of its history. 
Even when the God-idea is nominally separated by philosophers 
from all myth and ritual, it remains none the less a development 
from the myth-and-ritual stage ; and as every one of the historical 
religions has at every stage connected the idea with primitive ritual 
and what we recognize as myth, it is the merest mutilation of 
mythology to take the "absurd and offensive anecdotes" of the 
pagans and the heathens in vacuo, and then claim to have given us 
a " mythological science " of them. One of the most laborious of 
the later German mythologists syncretically decides that " Myth 
history passes through three main periods : those of belief in Souls, 
in Ghosts, and in Gods," insisting that " the conception (Vorstelhmg) 
of the existence of the human soul precedes the animizing of natural 
objects and phenomena." 2 But while thus drawing a dubious and 
untenable line between the orders of myth-material, he never disputes 
that all alike belong to " myth-history." 

The one way to solve such conflicts of theory is to go to the 
evidences in anthropology, myth literature, and religious history. 

1 Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. i, 36 ; 2nd ed. i, 39. 

2 E. H. Meyer, Indogermanische My then, 1883, i, p. 211 (Mythologische Stellung ). 


And first as regards the mental life of " primeval " man, there is 
positively no evidence that he passed through successive stages of 
soul-lore, ghost-lore, and God-lore, adding the second and third one 
by one to the first. Neither is it possible to show in terms of 
experimental psychology that a God-idea could come into being only 
as a fresh superstructure on concepts of soul and ghost : rather the 
naturalistic surmise is that a God-idea grew up with and in terms of 
the others, and was only by means of reflection or of priestly institu- 
tions differentiated from them. If, noting how the process of 
animism lies deep in animal instinct, we perforce credit the earliest 
men with a notion of living force behind the phenomena of sun and 
rain and wind, then they had a kind of God-idea at least as early as 
a ghost-idea or soul-idea. Animals, indeed, seem capable of 
animizing inanimate things without doing so in the case of rain and 
wind ; but then there is no reason to credit them with a ghost-idea 
or a soul-idea, though they certainly seem to have dreams ; so they 
give us no reason for putting the germ of the God-idea very late in 
man. Many of us, in all likelihood, have independently come to 
the conclusion so decisively put by such a competent student as 
Professor Giddings : " I believe that all interpretations of religion 
which start from the assumption that fetichism, animal worship, or 
ancestor worship was a primitive form from which all other forms 
were derived, are destined to be overthrown. The earliest beliefs 
were a jumble of ideas, and it was long before the elements of the 
different kinds of religion were discriminated." 1 

Here we come to the factor of which so many theorists are 
always tending to get rid, as against those who for the concept 
" discriminate " and its variants substitute that of deliberate creation. 
Early man, like later man, albeit much more slowly, proceeded of 
necessity in his mental life by way of modification and readaptation 
of his lore ; and the work must have been done in large part by the 
few thinking minds for the many. It took relative genius at one 
stage to create even a myth which to a civilized sense is offensive 
and absurd; 2 and slow as is all aggregate development, and fatally 
fixative as is the religious instinct, or the group of emotions so 
labelled, nothing can hinder that the mass of inherited lore shall be 
modified from period to period either upwards or downwards, either 
in terms of increasing knowledge or in terms of deepening ignorance, 
as the socio-economic conditions may tend ; or, it may be, alternately 
or conflictingly, in terms of a strife of forces and institutions. Thus 

1 Principles of Sociology, 3rd ed. 1896, p. 249. 

2 Cp. Tylor, Primitive Culture, i, 285, 119. 


we have the phenomena of (a) the conservation of all manner of 
primitive thought in systems which yet seek to glose it ; and (6) the 
fresh grafting of primitive survivals on systems which have been 
partly shaped by higher forces. For instance, the Hebrew sacred 
books crystallize round the most disparate nuclei of older lore ; and 
again the Christian innovation is connected with older and lower 
conceptions of ritual theophagy ; and yet again, in the Middle Ages, 
the Church gradually adds to its stock of myths that of the 
Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mother of the God-Man — this 
by force of the same myth-making bias (however sophisticated) as 
framed the previous dogma of his Virgin-Birth. Other religions 
show kindred phenomena. 

To say, in view of these long-drawn permutations, that the myth 
is essentially alien to the religion, or that ethics attaches to either 
and not to the other, is to override the evidence. Yet we shall find 
one mythologist or anthropologist after another claiming to make 
such severances ; and though the desire to accredit religion is 
naturally the commonest motive, it is not the only one, since the 
claim is made in the same fashion by one or two writers on the side 
of scientific Naturalism. We can but proceed to judge of the 
different attempts on their merits ; and in the same way we must 
deal with the chronic attempts of writers with an orthodox bias to 
make out a fundamental difference between Hebrew and Christian 
myths and those of " Pagans," or, in other words, to deny that 
Hebrew and Christian religion is mythological. . 

Chapter III. 

§ 1. The Theistic Presupposition. 

LOOKING for the grounds of the still common persistence in dis- 
joining the mythical or narrative and the didactic aspects of religion, 
we find important clues as well as cases in the writings of a mytho- 
logist already dealt with. The theorem of Mr. Lang as to a 
mysterious " purity " and philosophical elevation about the ethic 
and religion which in certain primitive peoples are found in context 
with an " absurd and offensive " mythology, is a fair sample of the 
fallacy of the separatist method. Here, more definitely than ever, 
myth is classified as a species of by-product of the primeval mind, 
something out of touch with the normal psychology of those who 
produce it, or at least psychologically alien to certain others of 
their mental processes. Denouncing the doctrine of Dr. Tylor and 
Mr. Huxley that there is no connection between the ethics and the 
religion of the lower savage, Mr. Lang nevertheless insists that there 
is no real connection between his ethics and his mythology. That 
primeval men had primordially a " high " conception of a Supreme 
Being, 1 which they at once "forget" 2 and retain; that the high 
conception came first, and that animistic degeneration " inevitably " 
and "necessarily" followed; 3 though all the while both aspects 
" are found co-existing, in almost all races ; and nobody, in our 
total lack of historical information about the beginnings, can say 
which, if either, element, is the earlier"* — such is the motley 
doctrine with which Mr. Lang has burdened anthropological science. 5 
The puzzle, as Mr. Lang presents it, is of his own making, and 
does not inhere in his data. We may grant him every one of these, 
as apart from his glosses — grant him that very primitive tribes may 
have a notion vaguely and loosely analogous to that which civilised 
men express by the term "Supreme Being"; that degeneration 
may occur at any stage of human evolution ; that primitive tribes 

1 Making of Beligion, pp. 188, 194, etc. 
2 Id. p. 281. 3 Id. p. 276. 4 m. p. 199. 

5 Prompt advantage has been taken of his argument and his authority by orthodox 
exponents of the science— e.g., Canon MacCulloch's primer on Beligion : Its Origin and 
Forms, pp. 16-20. 



may be in certain relations much more unselfish in their normal 
life than highly civilized peoples ; that they may be innocent of 
cruel religious practices found in more advanced civilizations ; that 
they do not discriminate as theologians do between " spiritual " and 
11 material " beings — all this without for a moment concurring either 
in his arbitrary addenda as to the " purity " of primeval ethics or 
the actuality of Hebrew narratives, or in the obscure inferences 
concerning the " supernormal " and the supernatural with which he 
embroiders the whole. 

First in order and importance comes the fallacy as to the 
11 Supreme Being," in which the word " supreme " engenders fallacy 
from the start, being applied to the God-ideas of savages, who never 
think out the thesis of "supremacy." Further, "the heathen (i.e., 
savage) intellect has no conception of a Supreme Being creating a 

universe out of nothing Whenever the gods make anything, the 

existence of the raw material, at least in part, is presupposed." 1 
Because in civilized thought the phrase is associated with philo- 
sophy, Mr. Lang assumes that any concept which can be described 
by the words in question must be "high," or " pure," or "deep," 
or " profoundly philosophic." 2 There is really nothing necessarily 
high or deep about the matter : the bare theory of a Single God is 
not more but less ethically elevated than the theory of Dualism, 
which is an effort to find an ethical solution where the former does 
not even face the problem. 3 The former is perfectly compatible 
with any measure of barbaric crudity in ethics, and with any degree 
of " absurdity " in myth. It is itself an " absurd " (that is, 
fallacious) myth for all who have critically rejected it as an expla- 
nation of the cosmos. 4 In Mr. Lang's case we have the old funda- 
mentally fallacious presupposition — belief that his own theology is 
the height of rationality as compared with that of polytheists — 
turned afresh to the old account of making out that primeval 
man was not "left without a witness" as to there being only one 

In point of fact, Mr. Lang's philosophic savages never do believe 
in One God. He speaks of their " monotheism " in the act of 

1 Rev. W. W. Gill, Myths and Songs from the South Pacific, 1876, p. 20. 

2 Work last cited, p. 211. 

3 This is denied by Goldziher, Mythology among the Hebrews, Eng. tr. p. 15 ; but, while 
arguing implicitly that savages have no ethics at all, he admits a " secondary " ethical 
element. Here Mr. Lang's view is corrective : savages certainly have ethics, albeit not 
" high " or " deep." In the words of Lazarus: "Alle Sitten sind sittlich ; alle Menschen 
haben Sitten" (Vrspncng der Sitte, p. 5, cited by Roskoff, Das Beligionsivesen der rohesten 
Naturvolker, 1880, p. 146). 

4 Mr. Lang notes (Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2nd ed. i, 3) that " it may, of course, be 
argued that the belief in a Creator is itself a myth." This view he does not attempt to 
meet, proceeding with a " However that may be." 


exhibiting their polytheism, 1 and seems to suppose he solves the 
contradiction by noting that so-called monotheists as a rule are 
practically polytheists. Broadly speaking, the savage's High God 
or Creator is either a God gone out of action or a figure put in to 
account for the presence of the other Gods, in the fashion of the 
Indian fable that the earth rests on an elephant, which rests on a 
tortoise. That primitive men should often account in that fashion 
for their Gods is not only conceivable but likely. A thoughtful 
child might readily reason so. But in the mythology of the South 
Pacific the " High Gods " Tangaroa, Eonga, and the rest, are actually 
the " children of Vatea," the first man, though his wife, Papa, is 
almost undisguisedly the Earth-Mother. 2 On the other hand, a 
given God may become "supreme" precisely because other Gods 
are doing the actual work — a development which we shall have 
occasion to discuss later. Either way, the process of elevation is 
not primary, but secondary ; not early, but late. And one fact to 
which Mr. Lang constantly adverts without apparently seeing its 
bearing — the fact that as a rule the savage pays little heed 8 to his 
11 Supreme Being" — gives the rationale of the whole matter. That 
the disregard of the Creator God arises not merely because he is 
good, is made clear by the case of the Haidas of North-West 
America, who have two Creator Gods, a good and a bad, and who 
disregard both alike in comparison with their minor created deities, 
with whom they are so much more practically concerned. 4 

Mr. Lang's theory appears to be that the Supreme Being in 
savage theology has been shouldered aside by demons, Ghost-Gods, 
and what not, in the way of degeneration. 5 But how a God believed 
to rule all things could ever be so shelved by beings regarded as of a 
lower grade, Mr. Lang never explains, though he claims to do so. 
A just Supreme Being, he argues, would give no such chances to 
individual egoism as are given by " squarable " lower Gods. He 
has begged the question. Not once can he point to the existence 
of a belief that the " Supreme " Being as such is at once a ruling 
power and above propitiation : 6 he does not even bethink him to 

1 E.g., Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2nd ed, ii, 87. 

2 Gill, Myths and Songs from the South Pacitic, pp. 7-8, 11, 17. The fair inference from 
the data is that Vatea and Papa, the first parents, were originally the primal Gods of a 
conquered race, on whom new Gods were super-imposed. Vatea in turn was son of the 
Great Mother, who makes her children out of pieces of her side. 

8 Work last cited, ii, 1-2, etc. We find even the belief "that the Great Spirit that made 
the world is dead long ago " (Frazer, Golden Bough, 1st ed. i, 213). 

4 Max Miiller, Psychological Religion, 1893, p. 222, citing Rev. C. Harrison. 

5 Making of Religion, p. 224. 

6 Mr. Lang relies on the apparent absence of propitiation in regard to certain primitive 
deities. Id. p. 188. But he never asks whether they regard propitiation as useless. On 
the next page he records a virtual process of propitiation of an " author of all good " 
among Patagonians. 


prove that among his primitive savages the conception of inexorable 
impartiality exists. He has simply given to the phrase " Supreme 
Being " all its possible connotations, and so burked the real problem. 
" Supreme Beings " are in a number of cases propitiated by savages 
— e.g., the Kaang of the Bushmen; 1 the Imra of the pre-Moslem 
Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush; 2 the Ngai of the Masai; 3 the Tangaloa 
or Tangaroa of the Samoans; 4 Kongo, his twin (and more popular) 
brother, at Tahiti and Mangaia, and most of the Leeward Islands; 5 
the Rupi and Nisrah of the Nigerians ; 6 the Ndengei of the Fijians ; 7 
Taaroa (=Takaroaor Tangaroa), the Creator God of the Tahitians; 8 
the Supreme Deity of the natives of the Obubura district in Southern 
Nigeria; 9 the Creator God of the Ainu (who allows the Fire- 
Goddess to act as Mediatress) ; 10 Jo-uk, the Creator God of the 
Shilluks in the Sudan ;" Hebieso and Abui, " the Awuna Zeus and 
Hera "; 12 and the Gold Coast Gods Bobowissi and Tando, as well as 
Nyankupon, "Lord of the Sky." 13 Yet again we find a Supreme 
God habitually propitiated in the case of Yor Obulo, " who is not 
only chief of the deities of the Andoni, but the governing God of the 
people." 14 In the case of Deng-Dit, "the Rain-Giver," the Supreme 
and Creator-God of the Dinkas of the Sudan, the creed is that only 
after man had learnt to sacrifice cattle and sheep to him did women 
become fruitful. And while the present generation are niggard of 
their gifts to him, " sacrifices constitute their only attempts at inter- 
course with God. In fact, they seem to regard him not as a being 
likely to confer benefits, but as a destructive power to be propitiated 
if possible." 15 The explanation of all these cases, as we shall see, is 
simply that the Gods in question, although " Supreme," happen to 
be still more or less actively regent, their priests having never been 
overthrown or superseded. On the other hand, in the known ethic 

1 Stow and Theal, The Native Baces of South Africa, 1905, pp. 113, 133. 

2 Sir G. S. Robertson, The Kdfirs of the Hindu-Kush, ed. 1899, pp. 381, 388. 

3 Jos. Thomson, Through Masai Land, 1885, pp. 444-5, 458. 

4 Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, pp. 52-53. This Supreme Deity, however, 
is in some islands (where Kongo is primate) little regarded. See Gill, Myths and Songs, 
pp. 18, 19; and Rev. D. Macdonald, Oceania: Linguistic arid Anthropological, 1889, p. 166. 
He is ostensibly the racial God of the Polynesians. ■* 

5 Gill, as cited, pp. 11, 14, 15. 6 Below, p. 62. 

7 But Ndengei, being mainly supine, receives little propitiation in general. See T. 
Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, ed 1870, p. 184. The sacrifices formerly rendered to him 
were human, and these were stopped by a disgusted chief. Id. p. 195. 

8 W. Ellis, PoUjnesian Besearches, ed. 1831, i, 322, 324, 357. 

9 Partridge, Cross Biver Natives, 1905, pp. 281, 296. 

10 T. Batchelor, The Ainu of Japan, 1892, p. 97. 

11 The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan: A Compendium prepared by Officers of the Sudan 
Government, ed. by Lieut.-Col. Count Gleichen, 1905, i, 197-9. 

12 H. France, art. on "The Worship of the Thunder-God Among the Awuna," in Jour, 
of the African Soc, October, 1908, p. 79. 

13 Sir A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-SpeaUng Peoples of the Gold Coast, 1887, pp. 22-23, 24-30, 
32-33. Sir A. B. Ellis at first held Nyankupon to be a God borrowed from the whites, but 
afterwards gave up that view. See Lang, Magic and Beligion, 1901, p. 42. 

14 Major Glyn Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, p. 401. 

15 The Anglo-Egyptian Stidan, as cited, i, 128, 145, 162. 



of many savages we find a complete negation of the idea of impar- 
tiality. " The African Wakuafi account for their cattle-lifting pro- 
clivities by the calm assertion that Engai, that is Heaven, gave all 

cattle to them So in South America the fierce Mbayas declare 

they received from the Caracara a divine command to make war on all 
other tribes, killing the men and adopting the women and children." 1 
"Heaven" would seem to be a sufficiently "high" God; and here 
are the Wakuafi attaching to him just such an ethic as that of 
Mr. Lang's Mosaic Hebrews, whom he so strangely represents as 
returning to an ancient purity of morals. And the God of the 
Mbayas may have been just as " high." 

Among the Bataks of Sumatra the rationale of the process of 
propitiation becomes fairly clear. They have three, or four, or five 
Over-Gods," the fourth, Asiasi, being a kind of compound or 
essence of a group of three, as it were a Holy Spirit, balancing their 
differences. He is seldom prayed to, and gets sacrifices only by way 
of something added to those of the three other High Gods. 2 For 
some, however, his name is one of the names of the High God Mula 
Djadi, and in this view he is the giver of all good. 3 Of the High 
God Batara Guru, again, it is told that all things are dependent 
upon him, and he is reckoned "a just judge"; yet he is regularly 
propitiated by sacrifices. 4 At the same time, there is a benevolent 
Earth-God, who in prayers is always invoked before the High Gods, 5 
and he is of course duly propitiated, with traces of former human 
sacrifices. But it is the priests who deal with the Earth -God and 
the High Gods ; and all the while every head of a family propitiates 
the Ancestor-Gods, who are the powers most constantly and directly 
recognized by the mass of the people and by the sorcerers, and are 
always invoked with the Gods, and generally before them, by the 
priest. And over all the ethical conception is that of simple fear 
and safeguard-seeking. 7 

The right line of inference from the data being thus saved, there 
is no need to follow Mr. Lang's very assiduous investigation as to 
the antiquity of any of the savage beliefs on which he rests his case. 
His anxiety to make out that the First God Ahone was believed in 
by the redskins before Columbus 8 would seem entirely needless, were 
it not that Dr. Tylor appears to doubt the aboriginally of all such 
conceptions. Some of us, however, see no conclusive ground for 

1 Tylor, Primitive Culture, i, 392, citing Krapf and Southey. 

2 Warneck, Die Beligion der Batak, 1909, pp. 27, 28. 

8 Id. p. 32. 4 Idm pp. 25, 26. s ia. p. 6. 

6 Id. pp. 3, 5, 6-7. 7 id. pp. 2, 61-62. 

8 Myth, Ritual, and Beligion, 2nd ed., preface; Magic and Religion, 1901, pp. 20, 39. 

9 See the first chapter of Mr. Lang's Magic and Beligion. 


the doubt. We are ready to make Mr. Lang a donation, at full 
value — over and above the earlier evidence he cites — of such 
testimony as that of the missionary Brainerd, who saw much of the 
redskins in the second quarter of last century : — 

" I find that in ancient times, before the coming of the white people, some 
[Indians] supposed there were four invisible powers, who presided over the 
four corners of the earth. Others imagined the sun to be the only deity, and 
that all things were made by him ; others at the same time having a confused 
notion of a certain body or fountain of deity, somewhat like the anima 
mundi, so frequently mentioned by the more learned ancient heathens, 
diffusing itself to various animals, and even to inanimate things, making 
them the immediate authors of good to certain persons. But after the 
coming of the white people, they seemed to suppose there were three deities, 
and three only, because they saw people of three different kinds of complexion 
— viz., English, Negroes, and themselves." 1 

Brainerd, though an "enthusiast," seems to have inquired 
without preconceptions, and may pass as a good witness. Here 
then we have among savages : (l) worship of the Sun by some as 
Sole God; 2 (2) the conception of a Good Supreme Being by 
Polytheists ; and (3) finally general resort to a belief in Three Gods, 
perhaps an adaptation of Christian Trinitarianism to the needs of 
the case as seen by the redskin's science. Mr. Lang's theory implies 
that there has been degeneration in the latter case from a higher to 
a lower form of faith. In reality there has been no such thing. Social 
and material degeneration did indeed take place among the redskins 
after the advent of the white man ; 3 but the theory of Three Gods 
is no more degenerate than the theory of A God, whether apart from 
others or existing alone. It was a primitively scientific attempt to 
explain a newly observed phenomenon which the older views did not 
seem to account for ; and the process shows very well how simply 
and childishly the older theories had been framed. Mr. Lang 
himself constantly reminds us that the savage does not distinguish 
as theologians do between "spiritual" and "material" beings; 
which amounts to saying that they are only at the very first stage 
of the theistic hypothesis, and have not realized the most elementary 
objections to its adequacy. 

So with other aspects of their theism. The notion of a Good 

1 Wesley's abridgment of the Life of the Rev. David Brainerd, 4th ed., 1800, p. 179. 

2 This should remind us to construe strictly Hume's substantially sound thesis that 
polytheism preceded monotheism. For all masses of men it certainly did ; but at an 
early period a monotheist or an atheist might exist among polytheists. Cp. the author's 
Short History of Freethought, ch. ii. 

3 Cp. Lucien Carr, The Food of Certain American Indians (Worcester, Mass. 1895), and 
Leo Frobenius, The Childhood of Man, Eng. trans. 1909, front, and pref . 

4 Making of Religion, pp. 174, 182, 290; Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2nd ed., ii, 48-50. As 
Mr. Lang notes, the point was made long ago by Dr. Brinton. But it was made still earlier 
by Creuzer, as he now notes, Id. p. 54. 


Power — as distinct from that of a mere First God to account for the 
other Gods — would be a simple generalization from the observed 
cases of propitiousness in Nature, and was neither a higher nor a 
lower conception than that of a Bad Power or a variety of dangerous 
powers who did the more abundant harm. If it w T ere the case that 
the Good Power alone was held not to need propitiation, that would 
be a specially logical deduction from the datum that his only 
function was doing good. 1 But there is no reason to suppose any 
such general rigour of logic among savages, any more than among 
Christians. The question is not one of the character or the 
hierarchical status of the God, but of his supposed activity. As 
Gibbon noted of the Supreme God of the ancient Arabs : " The most 
rational of the Arabs acknowledged his power, though they neglected 
his worship. In their offerings it was a maxim to defraud the God 
for the profit of the idol, not a more potent, but a more irritable 
patron." 2 The ancient Slavs put the matter more decorously when 
they " confessed that there is a God in Heaven, commanding all the 
others, but having care only of heavenly things." 3 The Dutch 
traveller Dapper explained concerning the people of Benin in the 
seventeenth century, that they did not think it necessary to pro- 
pitiate the High God, who was good, but "they try rather to satisfy 
the devil with sacrifices because he treats them badly." 4 Still more 
uncompromisingly, earlier travellers reported of the people of 
Malabar that "they hold that God made the world, but because the 
trouble of governing thereof is so great, therefore hath given the 
charge thereof to Satan, whom they worship with flowers on their 
Altars, and sacrifices of Cocks." 5 

Evidently it is the supposed activity of the God that governs the 
procedure ; for, as we have seen, some supreme Gods who are 
believed really to rule are regularly propitiated. But where, as in 
Nigeria, men regard the Creator-God " as having no connection with 
them whatsoever, with regard at least to the administration of 
human affairs," 6 they naturally offer him no service. So the negroes 
of the Gaboon region are reported to honour the evil spirit Mbuiri 
because he is the ruler of this world, 7 and needs to be appeased, 

1 This view was found long ago among the Hottentots, as regarded their "Good Captain 
above," in contrast to their "Bad Captain below." Dupuis, Abrigk de I'Origine de tous 
les cidtes, ed. 1822, p. 60. 

2 Ch. 50, Bohn ed. v, 461 ; citing Pocock's Specimen, pp. 108, 109. 

3 Krasinski, Sketch of the Religious History of the Slavonic Nations, ed. 1851, p. 13, 
citing Helmold's Chronicon Slavorum, i, 33. 

4 Cited by H. Ling Roth, Great Benin, 1903, p. 49. 

5 Alexander Ross, Pansebeia, 4th ed. 1672, p. 85. 

6 Major Glyn Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, p. 423. 
' Cp. the Gnostic passages in John, xii, 31 ; xiv, 30; xvi, 11. 


while the good God Ndschamti is in comparison impotent, and can 
be ignored. In the same way the people of Madagascar worshipped 
only the evil God Niane, disregarding the good God Zamhor, who 
did not interfere with them ;* and even so the Yaps of the Caroline 
Islands have a Creator-God, Yalafath, " regarded as a benevolent 
and indolent being" (and incarnate in the albatross), while Luk, the 
God of death and disease, is " a mischievous and ever-active deity " 
(incarnate in a "a black bird of nocturnal habits "). 2 

The character of Niane, as it happens, is equivocal, for he seems 
to be nearly identical with " Onyame " (=" the Shining One") of 
the Ewe-speaking peoples in Togo, if not with the " Nyambe " of 
many of the Bantu-speaking tribes — a spirit who may be regarded 
either as "God" or " daimon," 3 but seems primarily to have been 
simply " Heaven," like Zeus and Jove. But whatever the variations 
of a God's aspect, the law of the recession of the "high" God is 
nearly universal. In South Africa, " the One God seems to have 
been pushed into the background by hero-worships "; and by many 
tribes " is no more called Heaven, but Father, or the Old One, or the 
First Father." 4 So the Waganda of the Victoria-Nyanza region say 
that " their highest God Katonda has gone back into his dwelling- 
place and given the rule of the world and of men to the Lubari or 
Spirits." 5 So among the Malagasy there is a tradition of a good God 
who punishes evil, rewards good, and rules all things ; but the 
king is the visible God, and every province has its special deities." 
Accordingly the orthodox German compiler Wurm laments that 
while the African peoples in general "know" the One God, they 
serve him no longer." 7 

In this view he is corroborated by travellers without number. 
" Being incomprehensible," says Burton concerning religion in 
Dahome, " the Supreme is judged too elevated to care for the low 
estate of man, and consequently is neither feared nor loved." 
" They gave the good spirit," says another writer of pagan primitives, 
" no service, thinking him too pure to need it ;" 9 and the same writer 
decides concerning the Caribs that, " Conscious of a Creator, they 

feel so incapable of appreciating his existence that they exhibit 

no desire to obtain a nearer knowledge of Him, but make themselves 
familiar with spirits or inferior deities to whom they attribute the 

1 Buchner, Kraft und Stotf, 16te Anfl. p. 392. 

2 F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands, 1899, p. 384. 

3 Cp. Paul Wurm, Handbuch der Belicjions-geschichte, 2te Aufl. 1908, pp. 38, 39. 

4 Id. p. 41. 5 jo,, ib. 6 Id. p. 43. 7 Id. ib. 

8 A Mission to Gelele, 1864, ii, 136. 

9 H. G. Dalton, Hist, of British Guiana, 1855, i, 154. 


immediate occurrences of daily life, whether good or evil." 1 Herein 
the Caribs agree with Stevenson's South- Sea heroine Uma, who 
vividly remarks : " All-e same God and Tiapolo. God he big chief — 
got too much work. Tiapolo he small chief — he like too much make- 
see work very hard" 2 — evidently a transcript from nature. The 
verdict of orthodox Christianity on such forms of faith is pronounced 
by a distinguished modern traveller : " No traces of any religion can 
be found among the Wahuma. They believe most thoroughly in the 
existence of an evil influence in the form of a man who exists in 
uninhabited places," 3 etc. It is evidently necessary to be at some 
pains to show that such belief is religion. 

Our German hierologist, contending for the existence of a belief 
in a Supreme Being among the North American Indians before 
contact with the whites, accepts the verdict of Waitz that " the 
Great Spirit stands at the summit of the religion of the Indians, but 
not at its centre. High raised above the world that he created, he 
cares little or nothing as to its course, or for the troubles of men. 
Seldom do they address their prayers to him, for without these he 
gives them all that is good, and not often do they thank him for 
his gifts." 4 The same simple theology is found at Benin over a 
century ago. " God is infinitely greater [than the king] and also 
infinitely good, as he never does us any harm : there is therefore no 
need to worship him, and besides, he thinks much less about us than 
does our king. But the same does not hold good with the devil, 

for as all troubles come from him we pray to him and worship 

him, and we give him victuals to appease him." 5 And in our own 
day a keen inquirer who lived among the Bantus concludes that 
" they regard their God as the creator of mankind, plants, animals, 
and the earth, and they hold that after having made them he takes 
no further interest in the affair." 6 

Among the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast, again, 
" though Mawu is considered the most powerful of all the Gods, 
sacrifice is never directly offered to him, and prayer rarely. He is 
in fact ignored rather than worshipped. The natives explain this 
by saying that he is too distant to trouble about man and his 

1 Id. i, 87. To the same effect Squier, Notes on Central America, 1856, p. 210, citing 

2 The Beach of Falesd in Island Nights Entertainments, 1893, p. 97. 

3 Stanley, In Darkest Africa, 1890, ii, 368. 

4 Waitz, Anthropologic der Naturvolker, iii, 178. Cp. p. 189. 

5 Landolphe, Mhnoires, 1823, ii, 70-1, cited by H. Ling Roth, Great Benin, 1903, p. 51. 
To the same effect Beauvais, there also cited, who notes that the evil power was worshipped 
with human sacrifices. But this, if true, is not decisive: the "good" power would not 
necessarily be denied the same service. 

6 Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa, 1897, p. 442. Cp. Sir H, Johnston's George 
Grenfell and the Congo, 1908, ii, 635-6. 


affairs ; and they believe that he remains in a beatific condition of 
perpetual repose and drowsiness, the acme of bliss according to the 
notion of the indolent negro." 1 

Among the Abipones of Uruguay, the missionary Dobrizhoffer 
found no word for God, and he had to give them the Spanish word 
Dios to express the idea of a Creator of all things. 2 An intelligent 
native, when asked what he thought about the firmament, replied 
that his ancestors and his people concerned themselves about the 
earth alone. " They never troubled themselves about what went on 
in the Heavens, and who was creator and governor of the stars." 3 
The same people, on the other hand, " affectionately salute the evil 

spirit, whom they call grandfather." They did not inquire as to 

the nature of this personage, but when questioned admitted that he 
must be of their race. 4 They did not worship him. Similarly the 
savages of Chili know no name of God, " but believe in a certain 
aerial spirit called Pillan," to w r hom they pray. He turns out to be 
the God of thunder. 5 

To suggest, as does Max Muller, that the withholding of worship 
from a Supreme Being " may arise from an excess of reverence quite 
as much as from negligence," is to offer an irrelevant solution. The 
very illustration offered goes to show that neither reverence nor 
"negligence" comes into play. "Thus the Odjis or Ashantis call 
the Supreme Being by the same name as the sky ; but they mean 
by it a personal God, who, as they say, created all things, and is the 
giver (?) of all good things. But though he is omnipresent and 
omniscient, knowing even the thoughts of men, and pitying them in 
their distress, the government of the world is, as they believe, 
deputed by him to inferior spirits, and among them it is the 
malevolent spirits only who require worship and sacrifice from 
man." " He does not condescend to govern the world." To call 
this attitude one of excess of reverence is to anticipate the a priori 
fallacy of Mr. Lang. The Sky-God of the Odjis is simply in the 
same case with Anu, the God of the heavenly expanse, the theoretic 
head of the Babylonian pantheon, who is finally dropped out of 
practical religion, though philosophic religion continued to make 
much of him. 7 Like a constitutional monarch, he reigns but does 
not govern. The historic process takes a quite diplomatic form 

1 Sir A. B. Ellis, The Eiue-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast, 1890, p. 33. 

2 Account of the Abipones, Eng. tr. 1821, ii, 57. 

3 Id. p. 59. 4 Id. pp. 64, 89. 5 Id. p. 90. 

6 Max Muller, Hibbert Lectures on the Beligions of India, 1878, pp. 107-8, citing Riis 
and Waitz. 

7 Jastrow, Beligion of Babylonia and Assyria, 1898, pp. 86-90, 153-6, 


among the Bataks of Sumatra, who, by one account, " believe in the 
existence of one Supreme Being, whom they name Debati Hasi Asi. 
Since completing the work of creation they suppose him to have 
remained perfectly quiescent, having wholly committed the govern- 
ment to his three sons, who [in turn] do not govern in person, but 
by Vakeels or proxies." 1 Here, as it happens, there has been direct 
political modification. According to a recent authority, the original 
Supreme Being of the Bataks was Grandfather Mula Djadi ; and 
the present deity of that status, Batara Guru, was imposed from 
without by Hindu influence in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, 
the three Gods of the Indian Trimurti being assimilated as sons of 
Mula Djadi, and Batara Guru taking the first place. 2 By this 
account " Debata [God] Asiasi " is only a Saviour or God of Pity ; 
but he holds the balances among the three. Yet he too may well 
have been for some tribes once the Supreme God, being named 
" Grandfather " equally with Mula Djadi. In any case, despite his 
protective function, it is agreed, he is seldom prayed to, and receives 
an occasional sacrifice only in connection with the worship of the 
Three Gods. Such prayers as he receives are formal requests to 
excuse the small attention paid to him ! 3 

A similar evolution has taken place, yet again, among certain 
aborigines of West Australia, who " believe in an Omnipotent Being, 
creator of heaven and earth, whom they call Motogon, and whom 
they imagine as a very tall, powerful, and wise man of their own 
country and complexion Motogon, the author of good, is con- 
fronted by Cienga, the author of evil," whom ' the natives fear 
exceedingly. Moreover, as Motogon has long since been dead and 
decrepit, they no longer pay him any worship. Nor is Cienga, 
although the natives believe that he afflicts them with calamities, 
propitiated by any service" 4 — the Australian deficit of the where- 
withal for cult and sacrifice being here, perhaps, the explanation. 
In any case, ' excess of reverence " will hardly be suggested as 
regards the attitude to Motogon. When the Samoyede says of 
Num, the Sky-God : " I cannot approach Num, he is too far away," 
and the Guiana Indians say that the " Dweller on the Height," 
" Our Maker," is too far off to help them, and prefer to propitiate 

1 Coleman, Mythology of the Hindus, 18 , p. 364. 

2 Warneck, Die Religion der Batak, 1909, pp. 4, 25, 28. 

3 Id. p. 27. Warneck again (p. 28) represents Asiasi as " not a separate person ; but his 
name is a combination of the other lour" of the five chief Gods, including Mula Djadi and 
Batara Guru. Evidently the doctrine concerning Asiasi is multiform ; and Coleman's 
account may be quite accurate for some sect or group. And Warneck corroborates (p. 5) 
as to the small interest latterly taken by the Gods in human affairs. For this some 
Bataks account, in the Jewish fashion, by the impiety of men. 

4 Max Muller, Hibbert Lectures on the Religions of India, 1878, p. 17 and ref. 


the spirits they fear, 1 they are not moved by reverence at all, having 
no conception of goodness save such as they find in each other. 
They do not in reality even conceive the far-off God as " supreme." 
They simply think of him as " above," ancient, and inactive. As 
regards the general removal of the good God from the sphere of 
action, in short, we are evidently confronted by a normal psycho- 
logical process, which is perfectly intelligible, 2 and which goes on 
repeating itself in the religious evolution of the more advanced races. 

To propitiate an Evil Power of any sort again would seem to be 
a most natural course ; and we know how simple Christians in all 
ages have had a sneaking tendency to "speak the Devil fair"; yet, 
as we have seen, the Haidas are unconcerned about their bad and 
their good Creator-Gods alike, while they fear and propitiate the 
nearer Gods of Sun and Sea, who are mixed. Here again the 
explanation is in terms of the supposed activity of the Power in 
question. The speculative process is visibly from hand to mouth ; 
and the remoter God, even if Creator of Evil, is relatively beneficent 
simply because he has been relieved of — if he ever had — active 
administration, not at all because of a primeval loftiness of concep- 
tion as to his character. That becomes more and more evidently a 
chimera, 3 and the assertion that the Supreme Being of the lowest 
savages is " on a higher plane by far than the Gods of Greeks and 
Semites in their earliest known characters" 4 is absolutely astray. 
Those very Supreme Beings, by Mr. Lang's own admission, are 
concurrent with a " low" mythology; 5 and he escapes the force of 
this admission only by denying that the mythology is really 
1 connected" with the religion — a paralogism which might as well 
be applied to the case of the Greeks and Semites. The savage's 
ethic, as ethic, is superior only where his tribal state is relatively 
communistic, and only so far forth as his own tribe ; for he is never 
altruistic as regards other tribes. 

1 The [Australian] tribes are each other's mortal foes.". ' Strange 
tribes look on each other as wild beasts." " The stranger who dares 

trespass on the land of another tribe is pursued like a wild beast 

and slain and eaten." 6 These statements are not to be taken as of 

1 Instances given by Canon MacCulloch, Religion: Its Origin and Forms, pp. 17-18, to 
establish Mr. Lang's theory. 

2 Cp. Major Glyn Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, pp. 20G, 347-8, 423, 471 ; 
Crawley, The Tree of Life, 1905, pp. 179-180. 

3 As I have pointed out elsewhere, sacrifice, which is a form of prayer, is conditioned 
primarily by scarcity or abundance of food, especially of tame animals— a factor ignored 
by Mr. Lang in his comments on the absence of sacrifice among ill-fed races. Cp. A Short 
History of Freethouglit, i, 94. 

4 Lang, Making of Religion, p. 289. 

Id. pp. 197,198; Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2nd. ed. ii, 19, note, 33, etc. 
6 Carl Lumholtz, Among Cannibals, 1889, pp. 101, 148, 17ti. 


universal truth, for some tribes make alliances; 1 but they state a 
fairly general rule. The same witness, who lived much among the 
aborigines, writes thus : 2 "The Australians are cannibals. A fallen 
foe, be it man, woman, or child, is eaten as the chiefest delicacy ; 
they know no greater luxury than the flesh of a black man. There 
are superstitious notions connected with cannibalism, and though 
they have no idols and no form of divine worship, 3 they seem to 
fear an evil being who seeks to haunt them, but of whom their 
notions are very vague." Now, whatever may be the secret or 
private religious ideas behind this way of life, the actual and open 
facts are sufficient to rebut the whole doctrine of Mr. Lang as to the 
elevation of ethic which must go with the conception of a Supreme 
Being. 4 

In another connection, the point as to degeneration is raised by 
Mr. Lang yet again to fallacious purpose. He having argued that 
the Australians cannot have got the idea of a Chief-God from a 
tribe-chief, since they have no chiefs, it is answered that they may 
once have had them, their present stage being one of social or 
physiological degeneration. Whereupon Mr. Lang — who at other 
times affirms a wholesale degeneration in matters of religion — replies 
that there is no proof of degeneration here, inasmuch as no remains 
of pottery can anywhere be found to show that the Australians were 
ever higher than at present, when they have no pottery. The 
degeneration argument, he then triumphantly declares, must be the 
resort of despair" on the part of his opponents. This is all pure 
misconception. It really does not matter, for the confutation of 
Mr. Lang's apriorism, whether the Australians have degenerated 
or not, though, as regards the question of chiefs, that is possibly the 
true solution. He himself concedes in a postscript that Australian 
Head-Men of tribes are shown by Mr. Howitt to count for a good 
deal, one Head-man being " potent through the whole Dieyri tribe 

1 Id. p. 240. Cp. Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes, p. 32. 2 P. 101. 

8 "Of a supreme good being," adds Lumholtz, "they have no conception whatever; nor 
do they believe in any existence after death." This last negative testimony may be true 
of one tribe ; but Lumholtz actually tells in another chapter (pp. 279, 282) that the natives 
do believe in spirit life after death, and (p. 283) accepts Manning's account that some believe 
in a "supreme, benevolent, omniscient Being, Boyma, seated far away in the north-east 
on an immense throne in a great lake," though he denies that the natives among whom he 
lived had any such belief. Finally, however, he admits (p. 283) that " the natives are very 
reluctant to give any information in regard to their religious beliefs. They look on them 
as secrets not to be divulged to persons not of their own race." Thus he is a valid witness 
as to their conduct, but not as to their creed. 

4 Cp. as to the ethic A. F. Calvert (The Aborigines of Western Australia, 1894, pp. 20-21), 
who doubts the existence of any belief in a "beneficent God or righteous Creator" (p. 38). 
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen are emphatic in denying a belief in a Supreme Being to the 
tribes they have so closely studied. See below, p. 63. 

5 On the general question of the scarcity of chieftainship among primitives see the 
article on " Authority in Uncivilised Society," by Barbara Freire Marreco, in The Socio- 
logical Review, Oct,, 1908, 


over three hundred miles of country"; 1 while "there are traces of 
a tendency to keep the office (if it may be called one) in the same 
kinship." It matters not that this tendency is slight : the hereditary 
principle is no necessary part of the concept of chieftainship, con- 
sidered as a basis for a God-idea ; and there is indefeasible record 
of a nobler form of Headmanship, the elective, among the tribes of 
South Australia. 

" Each of the tribes of the Narrinyeri has its chief, whose title is Rupulle 
(which means landowner), who is the leader in war, and whose person is 
carefully guarded in battle by the warriors of the clan. The Rupulle is the 
negotiator and spokesman for the tribe in all disagreements with other 
tribes, and his advice is sought on all occasions of difficulty and perplexity. 
The chieftainship is not hereditary but elective." 2 

This elected chief presides over the " tendi " or judgment-council 
of the elders of the clan, who do the electing ; and " he is generally 
chosen for his ready speech, temper, and capacity for authority." 3 
Mr. Lang had overlooked the evidence when he framed his thesis. 
There is further testimony that in some parts of Australia " there 
are sometimes even two chiefs in one tribe, usually an old man and 
a young one." 4 Even the earlier writer, Eyre, who misleadingly 
asserted that no chiefs are known to be "acknowledged" in any 
Australian tribe, admits that " in all there are always some men 
who take the lead "; while Sturt speaks repeatedly of " chiefs " who 
seem to be elders. 5 And after all, as we have seen, the idea of a 
First God who made the others, or of a Good God who does all the 
favourable things, does not require the concrete fact of chieftainship 
to suggest it. Mr. Lang's case, then, is not bettered either way. 

That the native Australians have however undergone degeneration 
is a proposition incidentally worth clearing up, in the interests of all 
sides of anthropological science. So far is it from being a doctrine 
of " despair " on the part of perplexed Naturalists that it was confi- 
dently and independently put forward a generation ago by a thoughtful 
missionary, as being on the one hand necessary to explain the facts 
of the life of the aborigines as he saw and studied them, and on the 
other hand as vindicating the truth of the story of the " fall " in 
Genesis. 6 Of the blackfellow in general he wrote : — 

" It seems impossible for him to originate a fresh way of doing anything, 
or to improve on the method which he has been taught." Of the race as a 

1 Making of Beligion, Appendix D. 

2 Rev. G. Taplin, The Narrinyeri: An Account of the Tribes of South Australian 
Aborigines, 2nd ed. Adelaide, 1878, p. 32 (first ed. 1873). 

3 Id. p. 34. 4 Lumholtz, as cited, p. 177. 

5 E. J. Eyre, Journals of Expeditions into Central Australia, 1840-41, iii, 315, 

6 Rev. G. Taplin, The Narrinyeri, as cited, pp. 119-121, 


whole he wrote, on the other hand, that "they possess a language which is 
remarkable for the complexity of its structure, the number of its inflections, 
and the precision with which it can be used. Although the number of 
words is comparatively small — probably not more than 4,000 — yet they seem 
to the student to be rather the remnants of a noble language than a tongue 
in process of development. We find the dual number throughout. We have 
six cases in each declension of nouns," etc. 

But the thesis has been just as independently framed and urged by 
other writers with no religious or anthropological axe to grind. The 
case rests on the fact that the Australians are not conceivably 
autochthonous, but must be held to have anciently immigrated, 
probably by way of New Guinea and Cape York. If, as has been con- 
jectured, they were Dravidians, gradually driven further southwards 
by invading Papuans, 2 they were presumably " low " to start with. 
But inasmuch as races not yet " high " are seen progressing in the 
environment which the Australians left — the Papuans being their 
superiors, and actually, in recent times, to some extent their 
educators 3 — it follows that whether or not they were of the same 
stock as the Papuans they were in more progressive conditions before 
than after entering Australia. And that is the gist of the whole 
matter. Eaces degenerate not through an inward bias that way, 
but through their conditions. Now, "nowhere can the retarded 
development of mankind be more readily accounted for by the 
unfavourable configuration of the country than in Australia." 4 
Only a race bringing to it a high secondary or tertiary civilization, 
with domestic animals and scientific resources, could there prosper. 
The mass of the Australians, then, having for ages lived in conditions 
exceptionally unfavourable to progress, after having lived in much 
better conditions, must be held to have partly degenerated. 
And there is a measure of proof, on the one hand in their language, 
which is much more various and complex in its grammatical forms 
than the Polynesian dialects, and on the other hand in their relatively 
elaborate system of tribal and other law. 6 It is not a matter of 

1 Pescbel, Races of Mankind, Eng. tr. 1876, p. 325. Cp. Spencer and Gillen, Nortliem 
Tribes of Central Australia, 1904, pp. 15-20. 

2 See Nott and Gliddon's Indigenous Races of the Earth, 1857, pp. 75-76. for Logan's 
theory. As put later by Bleek, it is rejected by Pescbel, p. 323. 

8 Pescbel, p. 325. 4 Pescbel, p. 324. 

5 Cp. Mr. Lang's own final admissions, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, ii, 346-7. Tbe case 
of tbe Fuegians, where he admits probable retrogression, is closely similar to that of the 
Australians. Elsewhere (Id. ii, 115) he admits that the presence of Chiefs depends on 
accumulation of property ; and their absence or unpopularity is noted among Fuegians 
and Eskimos, neither of whose civilizations can be autochthonous. As to tbe relative 
richness of the Australian language, see Pescbel, p. 333. It is further noteworthy that 
among some of the Australian aborigines "a man's children belong to his tribe, and not 
to their mother's," and "a man's sons inherit their father's property" (Taplin, p. 12), 
whereas the more primitive matriarchal method is "tolerably common among the 
Oceanic races in general." F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands, 1899, p. 74. 

c Cp. Prichard, Researches into the Rhys. Hist, of Mankind, 1847, v, 275, and Spencer and 
Gillen, 2)cissim. The latter writers, however, do not admit degeneration. 


losing pottery but of losing ground in the total struggle with 

On the other hand, nothing is clearer than the savagery of the 
" Supreme " as conceived by savages, wherever we can analyze their 
conception. We have seen this on the ethical side as regards the 
Wakuafi and the Mbayas. Seeking for the philosophic basis we find 
that in Uganda the Bahima "have a name for God, though, when 
questioned, they can only associate the overruling Power with the 
sky, the rain, and the thunderstorm." 1 In the same region the 
Masai, an agricultural, warlike, and cattle-stealing people, have 
very little religion. By one account they believe in a vague power 
of the sky, whose name simply means ' sky.'" 2 By another account 
they see " Ngai," their Supreme Being, in everything remarkable, 
and yet locate him upon the mountain Kilimanjaro. 3 But " vague- 
ness " is no bar to the conception. The Ja-luo, Nilotic negroes of 
Uganda, " believe in a Supreme God whom they call ' Chieng.' 
This, however, is the same name as the sun." 4 The Masai name 
for " sky," again, stands also for rain, 5 though that has a separate 
name ; and when we learn that among the Wamasai God and rain 
are synonymous 6 we are confirmed in the inference that the Heaven" 
of primitive theism is not in the least a philosophically higher order 
of concept than that of the more plainly anthropomorphic God. 
Tangaroa, the High-God of the Samoans, maker of men and of the 
world, is in action simply an elderly savage ; 7 Ndengei is but a savage 
of a more amiable type ; 8 and the same may be said of Imra, the 
Supreme God of the Aryan Kafirs of the Hindu Kush. 9 And we 
have specific testimony as to the "purely materialistic idea of an 
All- Father of men and things " — interchangeable with Adam — which 
is all that underlies the Zulu God-name of Kulunkulu. 10 

The most abstract-sounding names are similarly limited in real 
content when the culture-stage is similar. " The Patagonians call 

God Soychu, to wit, that which cannot be seen , hence they call 

the dead Soychuhet, men that dwell with God beyond the world. 

They say that God created both good and evil demons. 

Concerning the Guaranis, who " knew the Supreme Deity," the same 
witness avows that they called him Twpa, " a word composed of two 

1 Sir H. Johnston, The Uganda Protectorate, 1902, ii, 631. 2 Id. p. 830. 

3 J. Thomson, Through Masai Land, 1885, pp. 444-5. 

4 Id. p. 791. 5 ja. p. 830. 

6 Burton, The Lake Begions of Central Africa, 1860, ii, 342. 

7 Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, pp. 4-7, 11, 43, 52-4, 233. 

8 T. Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, ed. 1870, pp. 211-212. 

9 Sir G. S. Robertson, The Kdfirs of the Hindu-Kush, ed. 1899, pp. 381-8. 

10 Dr. M. Kranz, Natur- und Kulturleben der Zulus, Wiesbaden, 1880, p. 109. 

11 Dobrizhoffer, Account of the Abwones, ii, 90. 


particles, til, a word of admiration, and pd, of interrogation." 
And if it be supposed that such expletives stand for any profundity 
of conception, we have but to turn to the "Great Spirit" of the 
northern Redskins, to find him alternately represented as Fire, Sun, 
the first man, a culture-hero, and a great bird, who makes the 
thunder.' 2 He is in fact simply the ordinary savage or barbarian 
God put in the first place, as was Janus, " God of Gods " among the 
early Romans, even while he was in the main superseded by a 
Jupiter blended with the Vejovis of the Etruscans. Even when 
there is an explicit stress on the elevation of the High God, the 
concept is not " ethical." The Grebus and Krus in Nigeria say 
they cannot see or know the Great God or ' Nisrah,' and therefore 
it is necessary to have some intercessory agents between them, and 
for this purpose are the Gregres or Buhs." 3 

Perhaps the clearest illustration of the simplicity of the intel- 
lectual process in question is supplied by Batchelor's account of 
the theism of the Antankaranas of Madagascar : " One Supreme 
God is worshipped. Anything unusually fine, such as a very tall 
tree, and every place remarkable in any way, such as a very high 
hill, a wide plain, a deep valley, or deep water, is always associated 
with his presence, and regarded in the light of a manifestation of 

himself to men All evil of any kind comes from the lolo 

(ghosts)." 4 Similarly, among the Masai, the "conception of the 
Deity seems to be marvellously vague. I was Ngai. My lamp was 
Ngai. Ngai was in the steaming holes. His house was in the 
eternal snows of Kilimanjaro." 5 With what noticeable exactitude 
does this develop Spinoza's hint as to the bases of the God-idea in 
his own race : — 

" If the Jews were at a loss to understand any phenomenon, or were 
ignorant of its cause, they referred it to God. Thus a storm was termed the 
chiding of God, thunder and lightning the arrows of God, for it was thought 
that God kept the winds confined in caves, his treasuries : thus differing 
merely in name from the Greek Wind-God Eolus. In like manner miracles 
were called works of God, as being especially marvellous ; though in reality, 
of course, all natural events are the works of God, and take place solely by 
His power. The Psalmist calls the miracles in Egypt the works of God, 
because the Hebrews found in them a way of safety which they had not 
looked for, and therefore especially marvel at. As, then, unusual natural 

1 Id. p. 64. 2 Waitz, Anthropologic der Naturvolker, iii, 181-2, 183, 188, 331, 338. 

3 Allen and Thomson, Narrative of the British Expedition to the River Niger, 1848, 
i, 117. As to the " unknown " Great Spirit Rupl ("alas! awful truth— unknown," is the 
comment of our witnesses) of the Edeeyahs, to whom are offered first portions of the meat 
got in hunting "through the mediation of the Ihohs or idols," see ii, 199, 201. 

4 Cited by S. P. Oliver, Madagascar, 1886, ii, 39. 

5 Jos. Thomson, Through Masai Land, 1885, p. 445. 


phenomena are called works of God, and trees of unusual size are 
called trees of God, we cannot wonder that very strong and tall men, 
though impious robbers and whoremongers, are in Genesis called sons 
of God. This reference of things wonderful to God was not peculiar to 
the Jews. Pharaoh, on hearing the interpretation of his dream, exclaimed 
that the mind of the Gods was in Joseph. Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel that 
he possessed the mind of the holy Gods ; so also in Latin anything well made 
is often said to be wrought with Divine hands, which is equivalent to the 
Hebrew phrase, wrought with the hand of God." 1 

Even so, among the Fijians, "the native word expressive of 
divinity is Kalou, which, while used to denote the people's highest 

notion of a God, is also constantly heard as a qualification of 

'anything superlative, whether good or bad' Often the word 

sinks into a mere exclamation, or becomes an expression of flattery." 

Finally, we have the explicit assurance of Messrs. Spencer 
and Gillen, who of all investigators speak here with most authority, 
that the Central Australian natives " have no idea whatever 
of the existence of any Supreme Being who is pleased if they 
follow a certain line of what we call moral conduct, and displeased 
if they do not do so. They have not the vaguest idea of a personal 
individual other than an actual living member of the tribe who 
approves or disapproves of their conduct, so far as anything like 
what we call morality is concerned." 3 And if, on the other hand, 
among the aborigines of South-East Australia " a belief exists in an 
anthropomorphic supernatural being who lives in the sky, and who 
is supposed to have some kind of influence on the morals of the 
natives," 4 even this belief is limited to that part of Australia, and is 
in itself the flimsiest possible basis for any doctrine of a moral 
Supreme Being on a high " plane. Concerning the Narrinyeri, 
who had as their Supreme Being Nurundere or Martummere, a 
studious missionary testified half a century ago that ' no fears about 
the future, or concerning punishments and rewards, are entertained 
by them," though they did believe in a future state. 5 

It now becomes tolerably obvious that the inference of some 
"high" and "pure" starting-point for savage religion and ethics at 
what seems to theists their best, is not only arbitrary but 
obscurantist. Mr. Lang, saddling anthropology with his own theism, 
tells us that " these high Gods of low savages preserve from dimmest 

1 Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, ch. i. 

2 T. Williams. Fiji and the Fijians, ed. 1870, p. 183. 

3 The Northern Tribes of Central Australia, 1904, p. 491. 

4 A. W. Howitt, The Native Tribes of South-East Australia, 1904, p. 500. 

5 Rev. E. A. Meyer, quoted by Rev. G. Taplin, The Narrinyeri, as before cited, p. 61. 
Cp. ch. vii, vassim, as to Nurundere's character, which is that of an enterprising savage. 
" My own opinion," writes Taplin (p. 58), "is that he is a deified chief, who has lived in 
some remote period." 


ages of the meanest culture the sketch of a God which our highest 
religious thought can but fill up to its ideal." On the ordinary 
definition of " religion " that may be, though it seems extravagant ; 
but if by the "highest religious thought" he meant "highest 
thought " the proposition must here be negated. Mental and other 
science, happily, can transcend the ancient paralogism of the Good 
God who made evil ; and it will not be permitted to our theists to 
impose their estimate of primordial theism on sociological science 
because primitive man anticipated their favourite myth. Those 

degenerating " — or, it may be, now stationary — Australian tribes 
have developed among them in a perfectly natural fashion a tribal 
ethic of altruism, which ethic is very astutely taught to the young 
by the old in the mysteries. It is extremely important to the old 
savage that the younger should supply him with food ; and the 
principle naturally takes the shape of a doctrine of " sharing all 
round," there as in many other primitive communities living mainly 
by collective hunting. Where other anthropologists see " the 
tyranny of the old," 1 Mr. Lang sees a hyper-Christian religion of 

selflessness." It is perfectly true that the Australians, in their 
separate communities, are ostensibly much more fraternal and com- 
munistic than any Christian community ; but it is a bad fallacy to 
look for the explanation to or through some primordial conception 
of a moral Eternal," 2 a conception aloof from or precedent to 

mythology." The true explanation lies in a line of inference from 
the facts that even among wild animals the male parent will feed the 
female and the young ; that many flocks of birds and beasts live 
more or less in common ; and that even wolves hunt in packs. 
These are conditions of relative success (^survival) for individual 
types and for groups of species ; and the law holds good for savages 
just as for lower animals. All the while, each community is utterly 
exclusive as against most of the rest. 

If then a savage is found conjoining an "absurd" mythology 
with an ethic of altruism for his own group, and with the conception 
of a Creator God, there is nothing incongruous in the matter. If 

1 Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, 5th ed. pp. 451-2. Cp. Tylor, Anthropology, p. 409. 
Carl Lumboltz notes (Among Cannibals, 1889, p. 163) that "it is as a rule difficult for young 
men to marry before they are thirty years old. The old men have the youngest and best- 
looking wives, while a young man must consider himself fortunate if he can get an old 
woman." Taplin notes that boys are forbidden to eat common kinds of game to the 
number of thirteen, these being reserved for the elders. (The Narrinyeri, p. 16.) 

2 In the revised edition of Myth, Ritual, and Religion (ii. 23) Mr. Lang protests that he 
" never hinted at morals divinely and supernormally revealed," and that he always held 
the given ethic to be the natural product of the social conditions. One asks the more 
insistently what he then means by arguing that religion began in a high ethical conception 
of deity? His statement that "all morality had been denied to the Australians" is a 
complete perversion of the issue. 


" the whole crux and puzzle of mythology," as Mr. Lang now tells 
us, lies in the colligation of absurd legends with the idea of a Good 
Creator, the trouble is easily got rid of. Unhappily many real 
puzzles remain after the false puzzle is put right. The conception 
of a Creator God is simply a less obvious absurdity than the more 
naif myths concerning him : it is itself as much myth as they ; and 
it is "irrational" in the sense of being illogical. The ethic of 
altruism for the group is as perfectly natural as joint hunting, 
fishing, or fighting; and the mountainous fact that the savage 
never dreams of a universal altruism — a fact not once faced by Mr. 
Lang — disposes once for all of the theory that he started with a 
" high " conception of a universal Father. Christians indeed think 
they have a high conception when they talk of a universal Father 
without for a moment attempting to practise universal brotherhood. 
But there is no reason to suppose that the unlettered savage even 
goes through the process of pretending to himself or to his God that 
he loves strangers or his enemies. For the rest, there is no vital 
ethical difference, but only a refinement of manners or mores, between 
the crude practice of sacrifice and the clinging to the theory of a 
divine sacrifice ; and the fact that a given savage, lacking the where- 
withal, 1 does not offer sacrifices to his God, does not make him a 
better man than the slaughterous Hebrew of the past. Nor does 
the latter-day Christian in turn salve his case by substituting for 
his compromising sacrificial idea that of " the sacrifice of a contrite 
heart "; for his God remains the Cause of Evil, and his ethic is thus 
incurably unsound. Thus the ethic that for Mr. Lang is " highest " 
is intertwined with mythology just as surely as that of the savage 
who, whether sacrificing or not, imagines a God who punishes 
wickedness, though according to the same savage (says Mr. Lang) 
the same God is the Omnipotent Creator of all.' 2 In fine, all theistic 
ethic is flagrantly mythological. 

If this reasoning holds good, there is nothing left to refute in 
Mr. Lang's theorem that Animism arose partly if not wholly by 
way of the " supernormal " powers of savages. 8 After seeming 
throughout the greater part of his work on The Making of Beligion 

1 Taplin (The Narrinyeri, p. 55) notes a case in which he saw something like a ceremony 
of sacrifice to the God of hunting over a slain and cooked beast. But the beast was 
entirely eaten by the worshippers. 

2 Mr. Lang (Making, p. 188) assumes to discredit one testimony by the remark : " Why 
the evil spirit should punish evil deeds is not evident." Yet the evil spirit does so in the 
religion in which he was trained. 

3 This view, like the more familiar thesis of a primordial monotheism, is found in 
previous writers. Rougemont (Le Peuvle Primitif, 3 torn. 1855, liv. i, iii) supposes the 
original monotheism to have lapsed into polytheism by way of Pantheism, through a 
superfluity of religious life, and excess of poetical inspiration. 



lo oonneot such powers with the alleged " bigfa '* primeval oonoep 
lion 1 of an "ethioal judge," he elects bo stand bo bhe position bhat 
they rather made for the Animism which followed on bhat bheistio 
conception and oorrupted it. 9 By normal powers (such Beems bo be 
Mr. Lang's final dootrine) yon get "high" conceptions; by super- 
normal powers you get low Bave as regards bhe belief in a moral 
future Btate, which is " priceless."' To whom this theory of things 
gives oomfort I am unable bo oonjeoture. But (had it. is a mere 
negation of all bhe data it is very easy bo show. It has been estab- 
lished with perfeot clearness bhat bhe animizing instinot is present 
in animals; and unless all savages are " supernormal," it is in no 
way dependent on supernormal faoulties. Supposing such faoulties 
bo exist, they might serve bo add oertain Items bo bhe mass of 
animistic lore ; but bhere is not a Bingle element in the so-called 
" oorruption " of religion by mythology bhat is not easily deduoible 
from normal psyohic experience. Absurd ami gross myths oan 
arise cither out of crude fancy or out of gross praotioe, such as oan 
go <m\ not only among Bavages, but among primitive rustics in 
Europe/ alongside of formulas about a Supreme or Good don. 

[iOW practical ethics can ami (K> suhsist alongside of these ami oi 
high ethical formulas in civili/.ed countries, independently o( "super 
normal" Corruptions: much more may they do so anion;: savages. 
Now, no one knows better than Mr. Lang how the ideas of the 

Bavage remain embedded in bhe religious lore ami praotioe of his 
civili.-eil descendant : bhe express aim o^i Mr. Lang's earlier anthro- 
pological work is precisely bo make this out as against the a priori 
mythologists who found "high" Bymbolic origins for so many 
primitive myths, it, is therefore mere scientific perversity ow his 
put. to revert bo a. " high " original for the God-idea which, as an 

evolutionist, he must admit to have its roots in primal Bavage lite. 

When Brugsoh, another apriorist, decides that "from the root and 

trunk of a, pure conception oi deity sprim; the boughs and bwigS of a 

tree <^ myth, whose leaves spread into a rank and impenetrable 

luxuriance." ' Mr. Lang replies that the myths flourish, Like 

mistletoe on the oak, over bhe sturdier growth o( a religious ooncep 

tion of another root."" The two formulas are alike fallacious. The 

1 Bee in particular pp 6 •. ri, I , '. 999 S. 

I i\>rtni t jhilu R«vtnv, N»v. L898. B Makingof Religion, p. 994. 

1 f ,j the unpleasanl itorj >>t Zeus and t\' uu'i er, given by Clemens Alexandrinus 
[Protrtpt, li) and Irnobius I Idv. Qmtea, \. 91). The BymboUo aotion there deaoribed 
oould ooour among primitive rustics to day. it was doubtless • Beasona] oeremons . trana 
tarred to divine olograph) In the QBual fashion. But if it oould latterlj be believed la 
a . Buoh an episode, It oould be bo oonceived bj the earlj praotisers of the ceremonj . 

■ lleliaion umi Mytholooie d*r alttn leawter, 1885 88, p. 99. 

c Muth. Ritual, and Rtlioion, 9nd ed. li, in. 


" root " alike of tho minor myths and the larger is tho same tho 
mythoposic faculty of the evolving man ; the God-ideas whioh satisfy 
Brugsoh are but the modifications of earlier hy Later thought; and 
those quasi-higher God-ideas <>f savages whioh so appeal to Mr. 
Lang are but thought -forms into whioh later men put higher moral 
and philosophical notions, as they do with so much of the rest of 
the savage's vocabulary. 

To introduce the oonoept of the supernormal" hy way of 
saving tho "high" theorem is merely to resort to mystification. 

Beliefs in ghosts, souls, resurrection, demons, fairies, and a future 
State, can and do arise and flourish among savages and more 

advanoed communities independently of any of the supernormal " 

processes contended for hy Mr. Lang. His whole colligation of 

these matters with his theory of the making of religion is thus 

worse than nugatory. We are asked to suppose that primeval man 
(whom all the while, hy natural inference, we must hold to have 
had animistic; habits of mind) began with a " high " conception 

of a righteous <>r benevolent Supreme Being, as Bavages conceive 
righteousness and benevolenoe: that is, that without a single 

preliminary animistic; concept (though tho ape-man had the 

animistic; habit before him) the primal man proceeded straight to a 
universalist theistio abstraction - all tho while playing the oannibal 
with trespassers. Then, having thought out a ' righteous " Omni- 
potent God, a " moral Eternal " who represents only his own 
morality, the cavo man- or whatovor else we figure him to havo 
been — developed ' supernormal " powers, which revealed to him all 
manner of forces that do not exist!' 

To insist that " powers " which thus effect in tho main mere 

delusion and corruption, as against the 'high" thinking of tho 
earliest men (who in turn might just as well have had such 

disastrous powers), are rightly to be described as supernormal," 
is surely an odd way of classifying things. But the classification is 
in keeping with Mr. Lang's handling of the phenomena of savage 

ethics and philosophy; and the total result, I repeat, is doctrinal 
chaos. The very conceptions of a Supreme Being which he sets 
Over against those of Animism are instances of Animism ; J and his 

1 Even this, of oourae, is strictly Animistic. 

" 2 This in despite of phrases about " information not accessible to the Known ohannels 
of mn," ami about our esoaping " at moment! from tho bonds of Time and the manaoles 
of Space" (work cited, i»i». 71, B9B :D. 

:| Mr. liiiiii; unities that Iwniusf tho early man ili'l not ruiso tho question of "spirit." 
" Animism was not lucdxt for the earliest iilea of a moral Eternal " [MaMno, l». IHii). As if 

the Question were ever supposed to •>•• raised In early Animism at all! <>n thit view, 
Animism is indeed not primitive, hut late ami metaphysical i Mr. Lang has here in oiioct 

altered thu whole significance of tho term. As framed hy Dr. Tylor, it applies tO oxuetly 


chronic restriction of the title of "myth" to stories which make 
Gods figure as animals or as immoral, his classifying of all stories of 
" moral " and " creative " Gods as " religion," is not merely a begging 
of the question, but an ejection of scientific method from the problem. 
To call one aspect of primitive anthropomorphism " absurd," and 
another aspect " sacred," when both alike are the best the savage 
can do to explain his cosmos, 1 is an unscientific inconsequence. 
And to condemn Huxley and others for making a severance between 
savage ethic and savage theology, 2 while affirming just such a 
severance between savage ethic and savage myth, is to give the 
inconsequence an aggressive emphasis. 

In the words of a mythologist with no supernaturalist axe to 
grind, " to our [savage] predecessors we are indebted for much of 
what we thought most our own" — a proposition which cuts both 
ways where Mr. Lang would have it cut only one — " and their 
errors were not wilful extravagances or the ravings of insanity, but 
simply hypotheses, justifiable as such at the time when they 
were propounded, but which a fuller experience has proved to be 
inadequate." 3 And in the words, again, of a student of a religion as 
to which there is no special motive to set up arbitrary distinctions, 
" There is nothing in worship but what existed before in mythology." 4 

§ 2. The Metaphysic of Beligion. 

Somewhat similar in form to Mr. Lang's doctrine is that of a 
learned continental mythologist and Hebraist who preceded him, 
Dr. Ignaz Goldziher, a professed adherent of the schools of Kuhn 
and Max Miiller, with, however, theoretic formulas of his own, in 
particular this : — 

"I have given to the conception of the myth a narrower scope than is 
usually done. I believe it necessary to separate it strictly from the conception 

the unconscious assumption which Mr. Lang has in view. In his later essay on Theories 
of the Origins of Beligion (in The Origins of Beligion, R.P.A., 1908) Mr. Lang's effort is to 
show that the savage's Moral Eternal is not in origin a Ghost or Ancestor-God, hut some- 
thing else. One is disposed to say, "So he it: hut in any case he remains a product of 

1 In one passage (Myth, Bitual, and Beligion, 1st ed. ii, 282; 2nd ed. ii, 300) Mr. Lang 
himself takes up this position. None the less, he elsewhere makes the severance before 
noted. See above, ch. ii, § 6 ; and cp. work cited, 2nd ed. ii, 141, 147, 156, etc. On p. 147 
Mr. Lang expressly posits " a rational and an irrational stream of thought," and confines 
the "irrational" to "myth and ritual," making "prayers and hymns" on the contrary 
" rational." As if prayers and hymns were not ritual and myth-narrative ! 

2 Making of Religion, pp. 191, 195 ; Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2nd ed. ii, 5. Mr. Lang is 
very severe on Huxley's "crude" position, while noting elsewhere that Dr. Tylor has said 
the same thing. 

3 Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1st ed. i, 211. 

4 Darmesteter, Introd. to trans, of the Zendavesta, 2nd ed. p. lxxiii. It is to be kept in 
view, of course, that while ritual thus always presupposes a mythical process, the historic 
ritual may give rise to new concrete myths. "For myth changes while custom remains 
constant." Frazer, ii, 62. Cp. Bergmann, as cited above, p. 10. 


of religion, and especially to exclude from the sphere of primitive mythology 
the questions of Cosmogony and Ethics (the origin of Evil)." 1 

This startling procedure is justified as follows : — 

" The latter point was of especial importance in reference to the Hebrew 
Myth, since, as I show in the last chapter, the solution of these questions by 
the Hebrews was produced in the later period of civilization and from a 
foreign impulse. There is an immense difference between the ancient 
mythical view of the origin of nature and that later cosmogonic system. So 
long as mythical ideas are still living in the mind, though under an altered 
form, when the times are ripe for cosmogonic speculations, a cosmogony 
appears as a state of development of the ancient myth. But when the myth 
has utterly vanished from consciousness, then the mind is ready to receive 
foreign cosmogonic ideas, which can be fitted into the frame of its religious 
thought and accommodated to its religious views. This was the case with the 

Hebrews; and hence I have not treated as Hebrew mythical matter the 

Cosmogony of Genesis, which, moreover, is to be regarded rather as a mere 
literary creation than as a view of the origin of things emanating directly 
from the mind of the people." 

There is here, I think, an obvious confusion, of a kind frequent 
in mythological discussion, which is so commonly carried on with 
an unfixed terminology and an irregular logical method. Granted 
that the Genesaic cosmogony is a literary compilation, made in or 
after the Exile, mainly from Chaldseo-Babylonian materials, these 
materials are in the terms of the case myths. Even if the Babylonians 
got them from the Akkadians, they must at some point have rooted 
in relatively "primitive" fancy. It is immaterial to the question 
whether at that or any other point in the development they were 
specially shaped or influenced by men of relatively uncommon genius : 
the same possibility holds good in every mythological case. What 
we come to then is this, that the Hebrew Bible contains, besides 
many remains of primitive Hebrew myth, late adaptations of 
foreign myths made by way of cosmogonic teaching or quasi- 
scientific history. It is perfectly fitting, nay, it is incumbent on the 
mythologist, to mark clearly the distinction between the two orders 
of mythic matter ; but to set aside the second order as non-mytho- 
logical is simply to renounce one of the most interesting provinces 
of the study. If the mythologist gives it up, who is to take it in 
hand ? The hierologist may handle the stories of the Fall and the 
Flood as expressions of the ethical attitude of the adaptors ; but the 
stories about Adam and Eve and Noah remain myths; and the 
advanced apologist of our own day excitedly protests when they are 
treated either by believers or by unbelievers as part of religion." 

1 Mythology among the Hebrews, Eng. tar. 1877, intr. p. xxv. 


Obviously they come within Mr. Lang's comprehensive species of 
absurd and offensive anecdotes." 
Nor can we be really sure that these myths are in essentials non- 
Hebraic. It is quite impossible to grant to Dr. Goldziher that at 
any point in Hebrew history, in some spontaneous way, " the [old] 
myth had utterly vanished from consciousness." How could it 
possibly do so save after it had been crowded out by a later myth ? 
Rather we are bound to suppose that the Jews of the Exile, having 
some simple cosmogonic myths of their own, and finding more 
elaborate statements current among their more civilized and cultured 
conquerors, sought to blend all together. As a matter of fact, the 
redactors have preserved two creation stories, with different God- 
names, embodying different cosmogonic notions. In any case, the 
Babylonian myths themselves, though complicated by astronomical 
knowledge and speculation, clearly retained " primitive " elements in 
virtue of that tenacious tendency in mythic usage on which Mr. 
Lang is always insisting. 

The attempt to draw a division of species between absolute myth 
and mythless religion in a visibly composite whole breaks down on 
whatever lines it is attempted, leading as it does to the most 
contradictory results. Such an attempt it is that brings Professor 
Max Midler to confusion with his Schleiermacher theorem of a 
perception of the infinite at all stages of thought. That doctrine 
preceded and presumably inspired the formula of Dr. Goldziher ; but 
it may be well to analyze it afresh in the professedly revised form 
given to it in Midler's Gifford Lectures of 1888 on what he calls 
Natural Religion," as distinguished from the later stages of 
Physical," "Anthropological," and "Psychological." "Religion," 
he tells us in his fifth lecture, 1 " if it is to hold its place as a 
legitimate element of our consciousness, must, like all other 
knowledge, begin with sensuous experience." Mark the "begin," 
which is repeated later on. 2 As the argument proceeds, however, it 
is insisted that " every perception involves, whether we are conscious 
of it or not, some perception of the infinite "; 3 and the conclusion of 
the lecture is 4 that this perception "from the very beginning formed 
an ingredient, or, if you like, a necessary complement to all finite 
knowledge." Now, it is very plain that if " from the very beginning " 
men perceive (not conceive) the infinite in perceiving the finite, a 
dog may do the same : that is to say, he perceives finite objects 
whether or not he is conscious that they are finite. Then a dog might 

1 P. 114. 2 P. 141. s P. 125. P. 140. 


have the beginning of religion. But already 1 the Professor had 

stipulated that " Real thought begins when we combine the 

percepts of sensation into concepts by discovering something they 
share in common, and embody that common property in a sign or a 
name." Then the beginning of religion, on the Professor's showing, 
is not real thought. Further, we may be conscious of the infinite 
(which is only a single necessary perception) without really thinking. 
This is tolerably sequent; but in a little while, 2 after the "whether 
we are conscious of it or not," the Professor says, " I am told that 
there are many savage tribes even now who do not possess a word 
for finite and infinite. Is that an answer?" Of course it is an 
answer — to him ! He has been telling us that there is no "real" 
thought without words, that thought and language are the same 
thing, and that thought = reason. His opponents simply meet him 
on his own ground, and say that a perception of the infinite which 
is not " real thought " is a chimera. 

But that is only one stage of the confusion. Soon it is intimated 
that "we must restrict the sphere of religion, so far as it is founded 
on perceptions of the infinite. We must reserve the adjective 
religious for those perceptions of the unknown or the infinite which 
influence man's actions and his whole moral nature"; and yet again, 
we have the definition : " Religion consists in the perception of the 
infinite under such manifestations as are able to influence the moral 
character of man. I look upon this as a definition of religion in its 
origin" (italics here Miiller's). That is to say, the previously 
alleged beginning of religion was not a beginning of religion at all, 
since it did not affect the moral character of man. And yet, after 
all, we have in the closing lecture 6 the dictum that " anything that 
lifts a man above the realities of this material life is religion." If 
that be not explicit enough, we have the story of the old Samoyede 
woman who saluted the sun at its rising and setting, saying she did 
what he did ; with the lecturer's comment, " It gave her the sense 
of a Beyond, and that is the true life of all religion": — this though 
there is no moral influence whatever involved. The Professor thus 
ends in threefold and irreparable confusion. He explains that his 
expansion of his definition of religion to include moral influence was 
made in acknowledgment of the force of the criticisms of Professor 
Pfleiderer on his previous definition ; but he has neither adopted the 
Pfleiderer position nor adhered to his own. He has simply used the 
two definitions inconsistently and at random, it being so much his 

1 P. 116. a P. 125. 8 P. 168. i P. 188. 5 P. 568. " P. 193. 


tendency to cleave to any doctrine he has once adopted that he does 
not logically readjust his thinking even to a change he is disposed 
to make. His first definition was a priori, much as he claims to be 
historical and anti-theoretic ; and the equally a priori dogma of 
Pfleiderer refuses to combine with it. Wundt, who is a good deal 
more of a psychologist than either of these writers, decides that " all 
percepts and sentiments become religious as soon as they have 
reference to some ideal existence which can supply the wishes and 
requirements of the human heart "; l and that account covers the 
great mass of ancient mythology. 

Pfleiderer' s influence is to be seen in the form given by Israel 
Sack to the summaries in his meritorious and often luminous work 
on the transition of Judaism from Bible-dom to Talmudism. It 
was in the exilic period, he writes, that 

" there came upon the Yahweh religion the pressure of a new element, born 
of the age, namely the purely religious cult, the personal godliness (Gottes- 
verehrung) independent of social life. It was the first step towards the 
releasing of the religion of Israel from Palestinian soil, and generally towards 
the conceptual {begrifflichen) sundering of the religious from the social- 
ethical." 2 

That is to say, the emergence of the purely religious was only the 
beginning of a movement towards the purely religious. And on the 
next page Herr Sack notes that it was in the same exilic period, 
which first really sabbatized the Sabbath, that there was set up the 
Zizith symbol — the "ribbon of blue upon the fringes of the borders 
of their garments," which is given out in the Mosaic law as a 
prescription by Yahweh to Moses. 3 The second testimony disposes 
of the first. The conditions of the exile would naturally develop a 
private as distinguished from a public habit of devotion ; but the 
Zizith symbol is precisely the effort to make a substitute for the old 
nationalistic regimen ; and of people in that frame of mind it is idle 
to assert that they have risen from tribalism, ethical or mythical, to 
pure religion." Nor can the claim be any better made out for any 
later style of Judaism, or any other system that holds by sacred 
books. Judaism is tribal to this day ; and Christianity, instead of 
progressively denuding itself of myth and symbol and ritual, shows 
everywhere the tendency to make more of them than ever, the 
Protestant impulse being on the way to euthanasia in rationalism, 
while the forces of the myth-mongers and ritualists expand as the 
restrictive element is removed. 

1 Cited by Mliller, p. 73. 

2 Die altjiidische Religion im Uebergange vom Bibclthum zum Talmudismus, 1889, p. 25. 
s Numbers, xv, 37-41. 


Here, as at other points, we find Sir George Cox avoiding the 
fallacious extremes to which theological bias has led some lay 
mythologists. " In one sense," he says, " we may, and in another 
we may not, draw distinctions between the religion of a people and 
their mythology." 1 That is to say, we may differentiate aspects, 
but cannot negate the organic connection. We are hardly even 
entitled to speak, with Ottfried Miiller, of " the history of the 
worship of the Grecian Gods " as " the auxiliary science of most 
importance to mythology," 2 for an auxiliary that is essential is 
practically a part of one process. In any case, the same sympa- 
thetic scholar has well argued that in Homer the conception of 
Zeus the moral governor and Zeus the cloud-compeller is one 
twofold thing ; and he goes on to cite as essentially and even nobly 
religious the set of myths in which Zeus has offspring by different 
females — the " beautiful and sublime fable in the Theogony" wherein 
Zeus espoused Themis and by her begat the Destinies; and that 
according to which Eurynome bore to him the Charites. Inasmuch 
as Zeus here plays as usual the adulterer, the anecdotes become 
under Mr. Lang's system slightly offensive, if not absurd. But 
Ottfried Miiller, who is reputed to have been a religious man, protests 
that " He who does not here recognize religion, genuine, true 
religion, for him have Moses and the prophets written in vain."' 
And Miiller would seem to be entitled like another to his view of 
religion's "true guise." Nay, yet another Miiller, Julius to wit, 
defending Christianity against the mythological interpretation of 
Strauss, insists that the " inmost and most essential characteristic " 
of a myth is just " the religious element " 4 — a straining of things the 
other way in religion's name. 

§ 3. Some Academic Categories. 

In these conflicts of judgment we can recognise certain specific 
forms of bias — the Philhellenic in Ottfried Miiller, the pro-Christian 
and the pro-theistic in others. But 3. further set of confusions is 
introduced into our problem by a number of classical historians and 
students who, though in some cases well-informed as to anthropology 
in general, appear to be conducted to separatist conclusions by the 

1 On Greek and Latin Religions, lecture in Beligious Systems of tlie World, 2nd. ed. 
p. 217. In the Mythology of the Aryan Nations, p. 3, Sir George somewhat obscures the 
point by saying of the Greeks that " we must draw a sharp line of severance between their 
theology and their religion, if we use religion in the sense attached to it by Locke or 
Newton, Milton or Butler." But he goes on to insist on the historic unity of the whole 
system, which is what we are concerned with. 

2 Introduction, p. 175. 3 Id. p. 186. 

1 Julius Mtiller, On the Theory of Myths, Eng. far. in Voices of the Church in Reply to 
Strauss, 1845, p. 184. 


academic habit of isolating the phenomena of Greek and Roman 
religious evolution from the main mass of anthropological and 
hierological science. One of the most accomplished of these 
scholars, Dr. F. B. Jevons, Principal of Durham College, has devoted 
a bulky but brilliant volume 1 to the ascertainment of the differentia 
of religion. A close study of it seems to reveal one ruling conception 
— the determination to make out that what is not on the line of 
evolution of Christianity is not religion. This purpose incidentally 
involves, among other things, the sanctification of religious cannibal- 
ism, and the excommunication alike of reason, philosophy, science, 
monotheism, mythology, and magic from the field of religion ; also 
the occasional rehabilitation of all of hose factors. 2 In the present 
connection, however, we are concerned mainly with Dr. Jevons's 
handling of the special phenomenon of mythology, of which he has 
separately treated in his very interesting introduction to the Roman 
Questions of Plutarch. 3 

In this entertaining essay we are presented with more than one 
of those invalid definitions which are the delight of the theologian 
and the bane of all science. The main theses are (l) that " until 
borrowed from Hellas, polytheism was unknown in Italy;" 4 inas- 
much as " the Romans had not advanced as far as polytheism, but 
were still in the purely animistic stage;" 5 (2) that "the Italians 
had no Nature-myths ;" 6 and (3) that the Roman cult was " nothing 
but organised magic" 7 — that is to say, in terms of Dr. Jevons's 
teaching elsewhere, was not " religion " at all. The thesis as a 
whole is an adventurous application of a somewhat haphazard 
remark of Preller that, in view of the fluidity of early Roman 
religious ideas, "we might more fitly call the Roman faith Pan- 
daimonism than Polytheism." 8 

The comparison of a few pages of Dr. Jevons's essay happily 
enables us to dispose of his first propositions by later dicta of his 
own ; his candour guarding us from acceptance of his thesis. 
In the same section in which he affirms that the Romans, before 
the arrival of Greek influences, " had not advanced as far as 
polytheism," he explains that after "having eliminated" all the 
loan-gods, " the genuine Italian Deities which remain fall into two 
classes," of which the first " can scarcely be dignified by the name 
of gods," and the second includes " such gods as Janus, Jupiter, 

\ i An Introduction to the History of Religion, 1896. 

2 See Pagan Christs, Part I, ch. i. 

3 Plutarch's Romane Questions, trans, by Philemon Holland, 1603. Eep. ed. by Dr. 
Jevons, 1892. 

4 Work cited, p. xviii. 5 Id. p. xxiv; cp. p. xxxv. 6 Id. pp. xv and xxix. 
7 Id. p. xxviii. 8 Romische Mythologie, i, U. 


Mars, Diana, Venus, Hercules, etc." These " genuine Italian gods 
stand forth essentially and fundamentally different from those of 
Greece." Then in the next section he recoils to the conclusion that 
"the Italian god was a fetich — i.e., a magical implement;" and 
that " the cult was nothing but organized magic " — that is, in a 
sense in which the Greek and others were not. For this mortal leap 
the sole semblance of pretext is the dictum that Janus in origin 
and function is not to be distinguished from those inferior, animistic 
powers to whom the title of spirit is the highest that can be assigned." 
Now, as Janus had been immediately before described as one of 
the great Roman gods," we have here the express avowal that one 
of the great gods " is a mere evolution from an " inferior, animistic 
spirit," and has the same functions with the latter ; albeit he is all 
along cognized and worshipped as " greater." Yet we are also told 
that the Romans, believing in a number of " great gods " who were 
recognized as such in contradistinction from " inferior " spirits, had 
" no polytheism," and that between animism and polytheism there 
is a difference in kind. When the theorist undoes his theory, 
wherewith shall it be resuscitated ? 

The best defence to be made for Dr. Jevons is that he has been 
countenanced in his conflicting propositions by conflicting authorities. 
For his spurious chronological distinction between ' inferior, 
animistic spirits" and "gods" he has the sanction of the futile 
definition of "gods" by Chantepie de la Saussaye, which denies the 
title to all "spirits" who are not (1) "members of a family or a 
community," (2) plastically represented in human form, (3) morally 
envisaged, and (4) conceived as " ideally good and beautiful." By 
this amazing definition (which would make Gods and Goddesses of 
many heroes, nymphs, and dryads), Ares, Hephaistos, Aphrodite, 
Siva, Indra, Horos, Hathor, and Ahuramazda are excluded from the 
category ; though Yahweh presumably comes in as not being one of 
" the gods," but " God." Yet even here the original definer is 
drawing a line between Gods and " divine beings in the sphere of 
nature-life," and Dr. Jevons does not admit any sort of ' nature- 
myth " in the religion of the ancient Italians. In defiance of all 
scientific usage, he calls the Romans' " gods " at once fetiches" 
and " abstractions," 5 though by implication he concedes personality 
to their tree spirits while pronouncing their dii indigetes rather 
numina, or forces, than beings." 6 All the while he is insisting that 

1 Id. p. xxvii. 2 Id. p. xxi. 

3 Cp. Chantepie de la Saussaye's Manual of the Science of Religion (Eng. trans, of 
Lehrbuch der Beligionsgeschichte), 1891, pp. 126-127. 

4 Introduction cited, p. xxvii. 5 Id. p. xix. 6 Id. p. lvi. 


the Romans were at the stage of "animism"; and the unquestionable 
meaning of animism is the tendency to read wills into the " forces " 
of nature. In short, Dr. Jevons ascribes to the early Romans the 
mental methods at once of negroes, of philosophers, and of modern 
men of science. And in the process he denaturalizes the meanings 
alike of fetich, numcn, and abstraction. On the latter head he may 
be defied to cite any form of primitive belief in any living race in 
which " powers of nature " are not conceived as having life and will. 
And if no such case can be found in living mankind it is an idle 
fantasy to reduce the whole beliefs of the early Romans to that 
unexampled category. 

Coming as straight as may be to the mythological issue, we 
again find Dr. Jevons partially excused by the countenance given to 
his language in other treatises. Sir George Cox, after recognizing 
the organic unity of the whole Greek system of "theology" and 
religion," succumbs to the fallacy of empirical classification upon 
another side. Speaking of the Romans, he says that in their system 
"so thin was the disguise [of the natural forces worshipped] that 
the growth of a Latin mythology, strictly so called, became impos- 
sible." 1 It is not here meant that the Latins were specially religious, 
in the elevated sense, but the reverse. Of course the proper state- 
ment would be simply that the surviving Latin mythology is bare or 
commonplace. The phrase cited is an echo of Mommsen ; 2 but the 
idea is one of Mommsen's many self-contradictions. As against it 
he has twice stated the historic fact : " In Italy, as in Hellas, there 
lies at the foundation of the popular faith the same common treasure 
of allegorical and symbolical views of nature." 3 "Abstraction and 
personification lay at the root of the Roman as well as of the 
Hellenic mythology." 4 The word " abstraction " is here clearly out 
of place. Abstraction is a quasi-philosophic process ; and the old 
Roman way of thought was in general primitively concrete. But 
the admission as to " personification " is decisive. Where there is 
personification of Nature-forces there is "Nature-myth"; and Dr. 
Jevons in turn, in the midst of his denials, tells us of the myths of 
the marriage of Hercules with Acca Larentia and Flora, and of the 
worship of the Dea Dia, the corn-spirit. 5 If these are not Nature- 
myths, what are? Gladstone, who seems to have inspired Dr. 
Barnett, speaks of the Goddess of Night in Homer as possibly an 
" obsolete Nature-Power standing in the same relation to an imper- 

1 Mythology of the Aryan Nations, p. 169. 

2 History of Borne, ch. xii, Eng. fee. ed. 1868, i, 184-6. 3 Id. i, 28, ch. ii. 
4 Id. i, 183, ch. xii. 5 Work cited, pp. lxxxiv-v. 


sonated Leto, as Gaia or as Demeter to Here." 1 On that view, 
combined with Dr. Barnett's, Nux is not a Nature-myth, not being 
impersonated, while Leto is not one, being impersonated ! What to 
make of a non-impersonated Demeter who evolves into Here, and 
where to find a Greek Nature-myth concerning Night, seem equally 
insoluble problems in the light of such reasoning. 

To what a shifting sand of arbitrary classification we should be 
led on Dr. Jevons's lines may perhaps be realised by Dr. Jevons 
when he reads the deliverance of Dr. Lionel N. Barnett that 

" No truth is more vital than the seeming paradox 2 which declares that 
Greek myths are not nature myths. The ape is not further removed from 
the man than is the nature myth from the religious fancy of the Greeks as 
we meet them in history. The Greek myth is the child of the devout and 
lovely imagination of the noble race that dwelt around the iEgsean. Coarse 
fantasies of brutish forefathers in their northern homes softened beneath the 
southern sun into a pure and godly beauty, and thus gave birth to the divine 
forms of Hellenic religion. Comparative mythology can teach us much. It 
can show how gods are born in the mind of the savage and moulded into his 
image. But it cannot reveal to us the heart of the Greek as his devout 
thoughts turned toward his gods. Greece sees God with her own eyes : and 
if we would share the loveliness of her vision we must put away from our 
thoughts the uncouth forms which had been worn by her northern fore- 
fathers' deities, the slough cast off by her gods as they grew into shapes of 
godliness and beauty. True it is that in regions where nature and history 
hindered Greek religion from developing its potential riches* that slough was 
still often trailed by the figures of popular faith ; but these exceptions point 
all the more effectively the lesson of evolution in Greek religion." 4 

A scrutiny of this play of declamation reveals only this meaning, 
that in order to understand " the lesson of evolution of Greek 
religion " we must put out of our minds all recollection of what it 
evolved from. The steps are worthy of the conclusion. It is 
implied that Greek myths evolve from nature-myths ; but not an 
attempt is made to show how or at what point a given myth 
ceases to be a nature-myth, or should be thought of as definitely 
not nature-myth. It would presumably be useless, and for scientific 
purposes it is needless, to ask Dr. Barnett when the notion of the 
heavenly bodies as personal spirits, on its way from the barbarian 
to Plato, ceased to be nature-myth ; or when the cult of Demeter 
and Persephone passed from Pelasgic nature-myth into Hellenic 
religion ; or whether the arrows of Apollo in Homer, or the Hermae 

1 Inventus Mundi, 1869, p. 259. 

2 By "seeming paradox" Dr. Barnett means just "paradox." In a glorification of 
Greece he might have given a Greek word its Greek and only reasonable meaning. 

3 Italics ours. 

4 Pref. to Eng. trans, of Prof. Steuding's Greek and Boman Mythology and Heroic 
Legend, 1901. 


of Athens in history, are really so godly and lovely in conception as 
to be sundered from savage myth as ape from man. We are dealing 
not with a scientific theorem but with a flight of rhetoric, significant 
only of the persistence of rhetorical methods in what ought to be 
psychological science in our universities. 1 

Like Dr. Jevons, Dr. Barnett rules that " while the plastic fancy 
of the Greek was actively remodelling the uncouth and formless 
conceptions of barbarous faith into moral and human personalities 
the Roman went on a different course. The sternly legal mind of 
Borne, which looked upon the person merely as a unit in corporations 
ruled by definite law, was little likely to lend human personality to 
its conceptions of divine forces, its numina. Instead of gods it 
worshipped deified functions." Observe the upshot. For Dr. 
Barnett there are no nature-myths in Greek mythology ; they had 
formerly been embodied in " formless conceptions," and have now 
been elided. For Dr. Jevons there are none in Roman mythology : 
it is a body of " formless conceptions," and they have not yet 
grown up ! Where then in Aryan or non-Aryan evolution is there 
room for a nature-myth ? 

Turning back to the special case of Rome, we may confess that 
Dr. Jevons, who presumably sees many nature-myths in Greece, 
has some pretext for his proposition in the scantiness of the myth- 
material preserved to us from ancient Italic folklore. But this 
dearth is a phenomenon to be considered and comprehended : not 
an absolute datum to be founded on without examination. Still less 
is it permissible to fill the void with verbalist formulas about the 
" sternly legal mind of Rome " — reducing the pell-mell of a people's 
lore to an abstraction of one will, incarnate in the town-clerk. 
Much lax writing upon this subject is to be accounted for by failure 
to recognize the exact value of literary and artistic development in 
Greek mythology in contrast with Roman. Concerning the latter, 
what we do know first and last is that the native growth was in 
large part obliterated in books by the imported growths of Greece. 
But the assumption that the Italian character and temperament 
differed fundamentally from the Greek to the extent of keeping the 
Romans inevitably devoid of a native mythology and poetry is a 
persistent fallacy of apriorism. The outstanding facts in regard to 
Roman literature are that, first, it is checked in its birth by the 

1 Professor Steuding similarly, after admitting that " it is probable that the Greeks 
were once" at the stage of thought of primitive man— i.e., that their race was probably 
evolved like others— says " it is unlikely that they were ever exclusively dominated by 
these conceptions." (Work cited, § 2.) What does he mean? * 


Etruscan conquest, anil kept primitive by continuous wars of 
conquest for centuries ; and that, secondly, when the conditions 
begin to favour its growth, from the very start it is overshadowed 
by the Italo-Greek lore. Ennius is half-Greek and a freethinker to 
boot ; and precisely when the Eoman culture-conditions become 
such as to make possible a native growth strong enough to react 
against those earlier Graeco-Italian influences, the conquest of 
Greece by the Eoman arms educes the conquest of Eome by Greece 
on the side of letters. 1 The earlier Greek evolution had been 
determined not by an occult force of " race character," but by the 
culture influences of the iEgean, as is partly recognised by Preller 
in the act of repeating the formula, so tenaciously clung to by 
German scholars, of fundamental differences of race bias. And 
even Preller recognizes that " in the earlier Italian antiquity perhaps 
much " of the stuff of epic and mythology " may have existed, which 
later, through lack of literature and as a result of the early loss of 
national freedom, was lost." 2 

To dwell on the bare fact that so little was saved is to miss the 
problem. The Eoman literary and political evolution, as we shall 
see, went upon lines unfavourable to the preservation of much 
beyond the abundant ferial traces of the popular religion. Yet 
Varro evidently collected a great deal " On Divine Things," all of 
which is lost to us save what is preserved in malice by Augustine, 
concerned only to deride the pagan beliefs, or baldly, by Pliny, con- 
cerned mainly about natural history so-called. Even that gleaning 
suffices to show that the Eomans lived in a world of imaginary 
beings; and to say that they conceived of these merely as " forces," 
or that they imagined minor deities by the hundred and told no 
stories about them, is to propound a countersense. Stories by the 
hundred must have been current among the people before the 
finished song of Greece, reinforced by her art, stamped itself upon 
the face of Eoman literature. Since Hartung there has been no 
question that the process took place ; 3 but German and English 
scholars alike have been strangely slow to realize the correlative truth 
that there was something primordial which Greek influences over- 
spread. The latest Italian scholarship, scanning the palimpsest, 
finds ancient lore underlying all the Grsecized versions of things. 
iEneas is identified as " merely an ancient Latin god. Lavinia is 
Yesta ; and iEneas is at the same time a solar and river divinity." 

1 Cp. Prof. Ettore Pais, Ancient Legends of Roman History, Eng. tr. 1906, p. 89. 

2 Rbmische Mythologie, ed. Kohler, 1865. p. 4. In insisting that nevertheless there was 
no early Latin epic, Preller is forcing an open door. 

3 Preller, as cited, p. 42, note. 


" Turnus also is a river deity." " Numa and Tullius, Kings of 
Eome, were merely river and solar divinities," tullius being an old 
Latin word for a spring. " Lucretia and Virginia, in origin two 
goddesses, become mere mortals ; Vulcan was changed into the 

lame and one-eyed Horatius Codes; and the god Minucius was 

transformed into a tribune of the people." 1 The inference that no 
tales were told of these divinities until they had been Evemerized 
into mortals would be a thoughtless solution indeed. And, in short, 
the notion that the Komans "had no mythology" is as untenable 
as the thesis of Eenan — to be examined hereinafter — that the 
Semites had none. In the Hebrew books themselves, under a 
kindred process of Evemerization, myth is disguised as pseudo- 

One difference there is between Eoman and Hebrew Evemerism : 
the latter is turned to monotheistic account ; the former retained 
its original character of imperfect rationalism ; and while the poets 
turned deities into heroes the archaeologists turned them into forces 
of Nature. On one side, doubtless, the process was official and 
pragmatic. The Dii Indigetes, by Dr. Jevons's able showing, 2 were 
made wholesale on the savage principle of securing control over 
natural forces as over daimons by naming them. But apart from 
such official pragmatism, it is the etymologizing archaeologist, and 
not the peasant, who sees "forces" or "allegories" in the deities 
of disease and health, of sowing and reaping, of rivers and springs 
and hills. Just such specific spirits are found by the hundred in the 
folklore of contemporary primitives, to whom no traveller has ever 
ascribed a " sternly legal mind." 3 

It may well be, indeed, that some of the higher Eoman " abstrac- 
tions," as well as the Dii Indigetes, were the work of the State 
priests, not of the peasants. Such a creation appears to arise in 
the case of the Egyptian Maat, Goddess of Truth and Justice, 
' whose priests were the supreme judges, and who was regarded as 
wife of the divine judge Thoth, and daughter of the supreme God 
Ee " (or Ea). She is seriously described by a hierologist as " entirely 
a product of human [sic] invention" and "a pure abstraction"; 4 
and, though mentioned in some of the oldest texts, she is said to 
have " no place in mythology." 5 Yet even this " pure abstraction " 

1 Prof. Ettore Pais, Ancient Legends of Eoman History, Eng. tr. 1906, pp. 200-201. 

2 Introd. to the Romane Questions, § vi. Cp. Steuding, as cited, § 190, and Dr. Barnett's 

3 E.g., the lists of deities of the Caroline Islanders given by Mr. F. W. Christian, The 
Caroline Islands, 1899, App.; and those in Turner's Samoa, 1884, ens. iii-v. 

4 Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Religion, Eng. tr. 1907, p. 21. 

5 Wiedemann, Religion of the Ancie?it Egyptians, Eng. tr. 1897, p. 142. 


is a daughter, a wife, and a mother ; she received the dead in the 
judgment-hall of Osiris ; ! and she is constantly represented in female 
form. If to be and do this is to have " no place in mythology," 
mythology will have to be recast. That Maat should not figure in 
popular mythology is a ground for supposing that her cult was 
exclusive, but not for refusing to see in a late myth a part of 
mythology. The most probable explanation we can frame of the 
countless God-names in Egyptian religious lore 2 is that they grew up 
at the hands of the priests somewhat as did the Eoman Dii Indigetes 
at the hands of Eoman officials. Were not the Egyptians, then, 
polytheists '? 

In a sense, the Egyptians and the Hindus had abstractions 
enough in their pantheon ; but not the most abstract of their God- 
ideas failed to find expression in the form of a God or animal or 
compound figure. Significantly enough, the one attempt in Egyptian 
history to exclude such a presentment of deity is that of Akhnaten 
(Amenophis IV), the royal devotee of Aten, the solar disk. Here 
there is a deliberate attitude of mind : " the Aten is never represented 
as anthropomorphic." 3 But it is represented by the king's will as 
the solar disk, with numerous life-giving hands at the end of long 
rod-arms ; and we may safely say that that is the nearest approach 
to excluding the "anthropomorphic" from Egyptian religious 
thought. In early Eome there is no trace of any such attempt to 
negate anthropomorphism ; and it is quite clear that the veto on 
images in Jewry and Persia never for a moment interfered with an 
anthropomorphic conception of the God. What has not been 
achieved in popular Christianity was certainly not achieved by the 
early Eomans. It is a mere evasion of all psychological science to 
suggest otherwise. 

Of the people of Ponape in the Caroline Islands we are told 


11 The worship of the Ani or deified ancestors, coupled with a sort of zoolatry 
or totemism, is the backbone of the Ponapean faith. Every village, every 
valley, hill, or stream, has its genius loci, every family its household God, 
every clan its presiding spirit, every tribe its tutelary deity. Thunder, 
lightning, rain, storm, wind, fishing, planting, war, festival, harvest, famine, 
birth, disease, death — all these events and phenomena have their supernatural 
patron or Master-spirit. The gloomy fancy of the Ponapean peoples the 
swamp, the reef, the mountain, and the hanging woods of the inland 
wilderness with hosts of spirits, some beneficent, the greater part malignant. 

1 Id. p. 102. 

2 Cp. Erman, Handbook, p. 21; Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. p. 85 sq. 

3 Wiedemann, p. 39. i F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands, p. 75. 



All these Ani are honoured under the guise of some special bird, fish, or tree 
in which they are supposed to reside, and with which they are identified. 
These they style their Tan-iuaar, literally canoe, vehicle, or medium (like 
the Vaa or Vaka of the Polynesians, the Huaca or Vaka of the Peruvians). 
Thus the chestnut tree is the medium of the God of thunder, the blue 
starfish of the God of rain, the shark of the God of war, and the Lukot, or 
native owl, the emblem of the fairy Li-Ara-Katan, one of the local genii of 
the east coast. 

"In their mythology they have a submarine Paradise (Packet), a place of 
perpetual feasting amongst lovely sights and sweet odours. They also have 
a subterranean Tartarus (Pueliko) of mire, cold, and darkness, guarded by 
two grim female forms (Lichar and Licher), one holding a glittering sword, 
the other a blazing torch — a gloomy conception very much resembling the 
Yomi of Japan and the Yama of the early Vedas." 

Concerning the Gods" or " daimons " thus particularized, it is 
impossible to suppose that they are cognized either as " abstractions " 
or as fixedly theriomorphic. Being either adaptations of deceased 
ancestors or fortuitous constructions which had these for models, 
they cannot have been "abstractions"; and it is extremely unlikely 
that they are definitely conceived as animals save in the facile 
fashion in which man and animal interchange in universal folk-lore. 1 
Dr. Jevons supposes that the Lares praestites were originally con- 
ceived by the Romans "not in human shape, but in the form of 
dogs." 2 Are the Ponapeans, then, below or above the stage at 
which Dr. Jevons conceives the Romans to have been immediately 
before the advent of Greek culture? Are they polydaimonists or 
polytheists, or both, or " merely " animists ? Since they actually 
have, by definition, mere demigods, heroes, and Ancestor-Gods, as 
distinguished from a War-God, a Moon-Goddess, a Sea-Goddess, a 
Rain-God, Gods of districts, and so on, polytheists they must be 
admitted to be. And yet Dr. Jevons and Ihne would have us place 
them at a higher stage of evolution than the Romans of the early 

Even the very spirit of apriorism might have saved Ihne from 
his preposterous account of the matter. After representing the 
Romans as being under an impression of perpetual supernatural 
controls, he perpends thus 3 : — 

"But the Romans had only (!) an abstract conception of the Deity; they 
did not see it revealed in a form palpable to the senses, and within reach of 

1 Of the Narrinyeri tribe of Encounter Bay, Australia, a missionary wrote at a time 
(1846) when their traditional lore was still fresh : " Nearly all animals they suppose 
anciently to have been men who performed great prodigies, and at last transformed them- 
selves into different kinds of animals and stones "(Rev. E. A. Meyer, cited by Rev. G. 
Taplin, The Narrinyeri, 2nd ed. Adelaide, 1878, p. 59). Meyer doubtless misunderstood 
the speculative process indicated by Mr. Christian in the theology of the Ponapeans. 

2 Introd. to the Romane Questions, p. xli. 

3 History of Borne, Eng. ed. 1871, i, 118-119. 


human sympathies. To them the gods were only mysterious spiritual beings, 
without human forms, without human feelings and impulses, without human 
virtues or weaknesses. They emerged from the all-surrounding and all- 
pervading spiritual world to influence human life, like the unfeeling elements 
of nature ; and before the eyes of man had caught their form, and the heart 
had drawn near to them, they retired from sight and contact, to merge into 
the godhead of the universe, like a wave in the ocean. 

" Roman religion, therefore, has gods, but no mythology. Though the 
divine forms were conceived as male or female, they did not join in marriage 
or beget children. They did not live together like the Greek gods in Olympus, 
after the manner of men ; they had no intercourse with mortals. No genuine 
Roman legend tells of any race of nobles sprung from the gods, no oracle 
uttered a divine revelation by the mouth of inspired prophets. For the 
inspiration of prophecy was substituted the dry formal science of augury, 
which aims at nothing but the discovery of the simple assent or dissent of 
the gods, by means of the anxious observation and almost mechanical 
interpretation of a strictly defined set of phenomena, which gave no hint, no 
warning, no advice, as a sign of divine sympathy in the affairs of men. 

" Such an unimaginative conception of the Deity could not create ideal 
pictures or statues of the gods. A simple spear, even a rough stone sufficed 
as a symbol ; a consecrated space, a sacrificial hearth, as a temple or altar. 
For 170 years, it is said, Rome knew no religious images. Afterwards, when 
the Romans had learnt from the Etruscans to represent the gods as men 
after the Greek fashion, the old views and ideas still remained in the hearts 
of the people. The gods transplanted from Greece took no root in the minds 
of the Roman people.' 1 '' 

Here Ihne finally negates the thesis of Dr. Jevons, who cites Ihne 
in support of it. For Dr. Jevons Eoman polytheism at least begins 
with the advent of Greek Gods, though not before. For Ihne there 
was never any Eoman polytheism at all, inasmuch as the imported 
Gods ' took no root." Thus, by the divisive courses of arbitrary 
definition and a priori thinking, we once more reach mere nihilism 
and verbal vacuity. 

For Ihne there is to be urged the excuse that before he wrote 
(1871) the accumulations of modern anthropology had hardly been 
begun, though anyone interested in comparative hierology might 
then have pointed out to him the nugatoriness of his inference from 
the facts that a spear or a rough stone served the Eoman as a God- 
symbol ; a consecrated space or a sacrificial hearth as a temple or 
altar. The latter phenomena belong to countless cults in which 
Gods are unquestionably conceived as quasi-human : a spear was the 
sacred symbol in Samoa of the war-God Tu, 1 who " in time of peace 
was a doctor"; and no anthropologist would dispute that the 

_ * Turner, Saynoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, p. 61. Doubtless the origin of the symbol 
in Samoa and Rome was the usage— noted in New Caledonia (id. p. 343) and among the 
mHlVv, • tchelor, The Ainu of Japan, 1892, p. 209)— of setting up a spear over a grave. Cp. 
T. Williams, Fiji and tlie Fijians, ed. 1870, p. 188. 


Samoans ascribed all manner of human vices, virtues, aspects, and 
proclivities to their Gods. A spear was also a symbol of Horos. 1 
But without anthropological lore at all, one might have supposed, 
anyone with the slightest turn for psychology might have realized 
the simple impossibility of the "mechanical" religion verbally 
constructed by Ihne. He blankly supposes a world of superstitious 
practices to have grown up without any of the psychosis of super- 
stition. As seen by him, Roman religion is a monkey on a stick. 

Could he have delivered himself from the presuppositions set up 
by a study of Roman religious survivals considered solely in contrast 
with those of Greece, Ihne might have learned from Bastian 2 enough 
concerning primitive personifications to have withheld him from his 
assertions as to the Roman conception of deity. From Preller and 
Mommsen, again, he might have learned that what he terms the 
"dry formal science of augury," instead of being a permanent 
expression of Roman limitation in the religious life, was developed 
from Roman beginnings on lines given by the Etruscans, 3 a people 
in close culture-contact with the Greeks, and abundantly given to 
the personification of their Gods. But such an interpretation as 
lime's seems to tell of an attitude of mind upon the particular 
problem in hand which no criticism could instruct. 

Proceeding to construct rationally for ourselves, we first ask, If 
it be true that the Greek Gods never took root in the minds of the 
Roman people, what had the Roman people done on their own 
account ? If every known branch of the human race that is open 
to examination is found to conceive of its Gods as human (or animal, 
or plant) in form and character, how can we rationally suppose that 
the Romans wholly failed to do so ? If every other barbaric race 
is found conceiving of its Gods and Goddesses as joining in marriage 
and begetting children, on what possible pretext can we conclude 
that the peasantry of ancient Italy were without such notions? 
And if we find among the priests of Polynesian cannibals, and of 
primitives everywhere, as well as among those of Greece, the practice 
of speaking in the name of the Gods, 4 what right can we have to 

1 Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Religion, Eng. tr. 1908, p. 214. 

2 Der Mensch in der Geschichte, 1860, ii, 79 8Q. 

* Preller, pp. iii, 130; Mommsen, History of Pome, Eng. tr. ed. 1891, i, 234. 

4 Cp. Bastian, Der Mensch, 1860, ii, 128 *><?.; T. Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, ed. 1870, 
p. 189 sq.; Turner, Samoa, a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, pp. 18, 20, 37; W. A. Pickering, 
Pioneering in Formosa, 1898, p. 72; Mariner, Tonga Islands, 1827, i, 101,290; Gill, Myths 
and Songs from the South Pacific, 1876, p. 35; Sir A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-Speaking Peoples of 
the Gold Coast, 1887, ch. x, and Tlie Ewe-Speaking Peoples, 1890, ch.ix; Major A. Glyn 
Leonard, Tlie Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, sect, vii, ch. i; W. Ellis, Polynesian 
Researches, vol. i, ch. xiv. The conception is, in short, one of the commonest phases of 
savage religion. Yet Professor Granger, following Dr. Jevonu, pronounces that "The 


suppose that nothing of the kind ever happened in ancient Latin 
Italy ? 

The thesis that " such an unimaginative conception of the Deity 
could not create ideal pictures or statues of the Gods " is a vain 
resort to apriorism after an illicit induction. If there were anywhere 
imaginative conceptions of deity, they were surely common in ancient 
India ; but what ideal pictures or statues were evoked by them ? 
The peoples of the Gold Coast have priesthoods claiming constant 
intercourse with the Gods ; and what are their images worth ? It 
ought not to be necessary to point out that ideal pictures and statues 
were never forthcoming anywhere save after a long artistic evolution ; 
and that the archaic statuary of the Greeks is as crude as that of 
any other race at the same culture stage. A late Roman statue is 
more " ideal " than an archaic Greek one. 

After such a wholly inconclusive series of judgments on fairly 
simple issues, it is impossible to put any faith in lime's further con- 
clusion that "the Romans never had heroic songs." As Preller 
asks, conceding the contrary, Where was there ever a people entirely 
without songs and sagas ?* The traceable facts as to ancient Latin 
carmina in general' 2 forbid us, once more, to believe that the Italic 
races were devoid of a predilection and a faculty which are found 
alike among ancient Finns and Teutons and Celts, and modern 
Zulus, Maoris, Australian blackfellows, and Redskins. These and 
other ill-considered negations went to the eduction of Dr. Jevons's 
negative theory of Roman religion, and the outcome is only in parts 
sounder than the inspiration. It is significant that he makes no 
attempt to indicate, as apart from the case of the Romans, when 
what he calls animism passed into polytheism, beyond conveying 
from Chantepie de la Saussaye the implication that men became 
theists only when they made statues of their Gods, and beautiful 
statues at that. On that view, the point of evolution of Yahweh 
from a Nature-God of Rain or Fire or Thunder, imaged by a young 
bull, into a God " proper " is quite impossible to trace ; and perhaps 
Dr. Jevons will be tempted to say that in that case there was no 
evolution to specify. But his difficulty will not end there. Greek 
art, like other things, underwent evolution from crude beginnings. 
Will it be contended that the Gods grew into Godhood pari passu 
with the improvement in art ; and that the presence of a few good 

profound thought that the personality of man may be the vehicle of the will of a divine 
being was first brought to Rome by the systems, half philosophical, half theological, 
which came into favour at the end of the Republic" (The Worship of the Romans, 1895, 
p. 252). 

1 Romische Mythologie, p. 4. 

2 See Teuffel and Schwabe, Hist, of Roman Literature, Eng.itr. 1900, i, 98-101. 


statues in his deme made the Greek peasant a polytheist proper 
when a Roman patrician was but a polydaimonist ? Modern investi- 
gation reveals practical polydaimonism among the Greek peasantry 
of our own day. 1 Did their ancestors, then, relapse from polytheism 
to polydaimonism when Christianity drove out statuary ? And were 
Theophrastus and Plutarch wholly in error in virtually ascribing 
polydaimonism to those Greek-speakers whom they represented in 
their own day as superstitious types ? 

Finding ourselves thus landed in a scientific impasse by our 
academic guides, with their arbitrary separation between poly- 
daimonism and polytheism, and their literary presuppositions as to 
an abnormal psychism in Romans, we turn with renewed confidence 
to the comparative method of universal science. From its stand- 
point, Roman religion is to be understood, certainly, as varying 
under special determinants, like every other, but as exemplifying 
universal psychological principles. And, firstly, the very basal 
principles of psychology obviously negate the theorem of a stage in 
which a whole people conceive of the whole multitude of their 
numina as collectively "inferior" or "mere daimons " without any 
"superior" or " more-than-daimon " from whom to distinguish 
them. And as it is further inconceivable that any primitive people 
ever explicitly posited absolute equality among their numina, the 
distinction between higher and lower must have been present in 
germ as soon as any explicit distinctions were made at all, and 
permanent thereafter. 2 In this way at least a few numina must have 
overtopped the rest in Roman religion before the historic period. 
And if such a state of belief be not polytheism, then the historic 
Greeks and Hindus were not polytheists. The term " pandaimonism," 
again, might as well be applied to their way of thinking as to the 
Roman. The conception, in short, of a pandaimonism or poly- 
daimonism which excludes theism or polytheism is a mere fallacy of 
terms. If the numina of primitives are not to be called Gods," 
why call the primitives themselves men ? Are we to end, on the 
lines of Chantepie de la Saussaye, in rehabilitating idolatry in 
culture-history by calling the sculptor the God-maker ? 

The fact that different Latin districts and villages had each their 
Mars and Jupiter is rather a proof of personification than a sugges- 
tion to the contrary. In parts of Catholic Christendom there is 

1 See Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Belujion, by J. C. Lawson, 1910, passim. 

2 Professor Granger, in the act of giving a general assent to Dr. Jevons's formula, 
admits that Jupiter and Mars stand out from the mass (Worship of the Romans, pp. 104-5). 


precisely such a reduplication of the Virgin Mary. By the admission 
of Professor Granger, the same proposition holds of many if not 
most of the Gods of Greece. 1 Among the Samoans War-Gods were 
to be counted by the dozen. And if it be urged that this means 
polydaimonism, the answer is that the Samoans graded their Gods 
into " superior and inferior," 2 recognized a Creator-God, and gave 
him and many others families. They were thus polytheists by 
every test save that of sculpture. And if that is to be the test, why 
complicate the problem by obtruding the others ? 

As for the proposition that the Romans conceived their deities 
as male and female yet never thought of them as begetting children, 
it may be left to the deliberate rejection of all who reflect upon it. 
As is pointed out by Preller, the epithets "father" and "mother" 
are applied alike to the higher and the lower deities of Rome with a 
frequency seen in no other ancient mythology. 3 

Secondly, it is inconceivable a priori and a posteriori that the 
Romans, however vaguely they may have thought of some of their 
incligitamenta, should have totally or generally failed to think of 
them as personalities. If they so failed, they were either higher or 
lower in psychic capacity than the hosts of savages made known to 
us by contemporary anthropology. If higher, when and how did 
they transcend the general propensity, the retention of which by 
the Greeks is counted to them for proof of superior imaginativeness? 
If lower, how came they to be so ? Is it not a gratuitous extrava- 
gance to put the Romans of 200 or 300 B.C., who " lived and died 
in a spirit world," "beset on all sides by imaginary foes," 4 lower in 
psychic evolution than the present natives of the Gold Coast ? Is 
it not saner to " admit at once that the Roman was not so benighted 
intellectually as we might think"? 5 And, having made that admis- 
sion, can we be really more certain that for the Roman the septem- 
triones were " seven ploughing oxen who continued round the pole 
that agriculture which was his business on the plains of Latium," 6 
than that for the English of two centuries ago the constellation in 
question was a waggon, or that for the people of the United States 
to-day it is a kitchen utensil ? 

"For evidence," says Professor Granger, "we are confined to 
his language." 7 Indeed we are not. On that view mythology 

1 Worship of th? Bomans, p. 105. 2 Turner, Samoa, p. 116. 

f< 3 Bomische MytTiologie, pp. 50-51. When Preller goes on to dwell upon the peculiarly 
abstract" signification of nimien he falls into the old snare. No examples of the word 
can prove that it had any more abstract significance to start with than Deus. Compare 
Renouf (as cited, p. 93 sa.) on the significance of the Egyptian word nutar. 

4 Granger, The Worship of the Bomans, pp. 75, 81. 

5 Id. p. 31. 6 id. p . 74, 7 id. ib. 


would be " a disease of language" with a vengeance! Where his 
language gives indications such as in other languages we know to be 
illusory, the only reasonable course is to conceive the Roman's 
mental processes broadly in terms of those of other races at a 
similar culture stage. The comparative method, by Professor 
Granger's own admission, 1 is based upon the fact that " our common 
nature manifests itself in like ways under like circumstances." The 
present argument is simply an invitation to those who accept that 
principle to apply it consistently. 

Such application, thirdly, commits us to the inference that the 
Romans, like other races, had a native folklore in which tales were 
told of the Gods. There is not the slightest difficulty in under- 
standing how this primitive lore was for the most part silently 
dropped by the literate generations which read Greek. Actually 
surviving legends concerning Acca Larentia and Flora ; actually 
recorded usages, grimly retailed by Christian Fathers bent on dis- 
crediting Paganism, indicate that early Roman mythology was 
largely on the lines of the grossest mythology of Greece ; and the 
proud Roman aristocracy, posing as masters of the world, would be 
the last men to drag forth before the subject Greeks the crudities of 
their fathers' faith. 2 Like the Yahwistic Hebrews, though for a 
different reason, they lent themselves to a wholesale dismissal, so 
far as literature went, of their religious antecedents. To this they 
were the more easily led because of the Evemeristic movement 
which reached them through Ennius. 3 Preserving the old cults 
merely insofar as they were State functions, they turned their backs 
on their myths, alike because they disbelieved them and because the 
myths lacked the dignity that beseemed Roman things. 

If the negative academic theory is to be adhered to, it will make 
short work of other mythologies than the Roman. If any ancient 
people can be supposed to have told stories about their Gods, the 
Egyptians must be so thought of. Yet by the documentary test 
ancient Egypt proves to be as "unimaginative" as Rome; witness 
the expert : — 

"It is in this period of [progressively creative] mythology that we first 
know anything of the religion of Egypt ; even our earliest texts are full of 

allusions to the myth. 'The day wherein The night wherein The 

Gods who ' — these are expressions we meet with at every turn. But 

i Id. p. 129. 

2 See the general argument of Professor Ettore Pais, Ancient Legends of Roman Italy, 
Eng. fcr. 1906, pp. 67, 95. I must demur, however, against the implication of Professor 
Pais (pp. 86, 88) that the early Romans did not conceive their Gods under human form till 
they began so to represent them in statues. 

8 Cicero, Be natura deorum, i, 42 ; iii, 32 ; De divinatione, ii, 50. 


numerous as these allusions are, we understand little of them, for the stories 
to which they refer are not told in the texts. If any literature relating to 
these stories ever existed, it is entirely lost. It is possible that actual mytho- 
logical writings never existed ; it would be quite unnecessary to write down 
tales familiar to all, passed on from generation to generation by word of 
mouth. We are, therefore, obliged to draw our knowledge of this important 
side of Egyptian religion from very doubtful sources " x 

If this can be said of a people whose religious literature goes 
back to primitive times, when nothing like cultured scepticism 
existed, and when all God-stories would possess religious value, 
much more reasonably may we say that there was a popular mytho- 
logical lore among the Romans which the Roman literate class after 
Ennius would not consider worth reducing to writing. If the 
Romans had " no mythology," then neither had the Egyptians ; and 
this indeed was actually affirmed a generation ago. " The most 
common opinion," wrote Renouf in 1879, " held by the best scholars 
only a few years ago was, that however many gods the Egyptians 
might have, they had no mythology properly speaking. The only 
myth they were supposed to possess was that about Osiris, and even 
this was imagined to have been brought into shape through Hellenic 
influences. This opinion," he adds, "is altogether an erroneous 

one The tale of Osiris is as old as Egyptian civilization itself." 2 

Just as mythology was thus denied by one set of separatists to the 
Semites, and by another to the Egyptians, it is still denied by yet 
another school to the Romans, leaving the naturalist asking whether, 
like the " true Church of God on earth," mythology is restricted 
to the one set of myths that happen to appeal to the theorist ? 

Even as there is enough myth-matter preserved from Egypt to 
prove the abundance of Egyptian mythology, there is enough myth- 
matter preserved from Rome to prove the abundance of Roman 
mythology. The very school which talks of "mere numina," 
"mere nature-forces," avows that " when every event which passed 
human comprehension was referred to the action of some particular 
spirit, the belief in such existences attained a strength which now we 
can scarcely realize.' ,3 While Dr. Jevons denies that the Romans 
had nature-myths, Professor Granger, in a learned and interesting 
chapter, goes far to show that they had nothing else. When he 
nonetheless thinks fit to explain that " the mighty God and most 

1 Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Religion, Eng. tr. 1907, p. 25. Erinan goes on to speak 
of " the great mass of stories of the gods with which Egypt at one time must have been 
flooded." He has indeed somewhat minimised the mass that survives. Cp. Renout, 
Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. p. 105. 

2 Hibbert Lectures, as cited, pp. 101-5. 

3 Granger, as cited, p. 181. 4 I3..P- M sq. 


holy shepherd Silvanus " was after all "simply a wood fairy," 1 he 
is applying a method which would give the same result with Pan. 

" Like our English fairies," the Roman " have no individuality 

They are restricted to the forest and the adjoining country."" 

Then was Pan, who avoided towns, individual? Was Artemis? 
" Very little is known as to their origin." 8 Can the Professor tell 
us the origin of Woden, or Yah well, or Bel ? 

The separatist reasoning about polydaimonism versus polytheism 
will equally apply, again, to the Egyptians in respect of their facile 
identification of numbers of Gods and Goddesses, and their recog- 
nition of them all under the conception of "powers." And if we 
are once more told that the Egyptians were polytheists in virtue of 
their grouping of the Gods in families, we have to ask once more 
(l) where the Polynesians come in, and (2) how the separatist gets 
over the fact that the Egyptian statues of God-figures were not 
beautiful, and hence, by his tests, not figures of " Gods "? 

When this chaos of pseudo-classification can be solved, we may 
reconsider our evolutionary and monistic conception of religion and 
myth. For the present, it seems to offer the sole harbour for 
scientific thought. It may be, indeed, that much has yet to be done 
before the phenomena are thoroughly colligated, and that many of 
them are still misunderstood. But if English academic scholarship 
cannot otherwise counter the newer scientific Italian scholarship of 
the school of Pais than by calling, as some do, that writer's recon- 
structions " wild," it will simply find itself discarded in this connec- 
tion, as so many systems of inconsistent conservatism have been 
discarded in the past. 

§ 4. Mr. Grant Allen's Theorem. 

The foregoing surveys already tend to prove the inexpediency of 
the latest attempt of all to break up the phenomena of religion into 
unconnected species — the attempt made, namely, by the late Mr. 
Grant Allen in the opening chapter of his able and suggestive work 
on The Evolution of the Idea of God (1897). Without noting Mr. 
Lang's similar undertaking to sunder mythology from religion, Mr. 
Allen charges upon mythologists in general an erroneous identifica- 
tion of the two, and proceeds in his turn to pass one more verdict 
of divorce. Devils and Cyclopes and Centaurs, he insists to begin 
with, are not Gods " or anything like one. They have no more to 
do with religion, properly so called, than the unicorn of the royal 

1 Id. p. 102. 2 Id. p. 104. 3 Idt ibi 


arms has to do with British Christianity. A God, as I understand 
the word, and as the vast mass of mankind has always understood 

it, is a supernatural heing to be revered and worshipped Bearing 

this distinction carefully in mind, let us proceed to consider the 
essentials of religion." 1 

The reason for this preliminary distinction turns out to be that 
Mr. Allen, having in view one particular line of descent for the God- 
idea, desired to have nothing to do with any other. His position 
is, in brief, that " corpse- worship is the protoplasm of religion," and 
that " folk-lore is the protoplasm of mythology, and of its more 
modern and philosophical offshoot, theology." 2 Which recalls the 
railway guard's decision that " dogs is dogs and cats is dogs, but a 
tortoise is a hinseck." The decision to connect theology not with 
religion but with mythology is a course worthy of mythology itself. 
Arbitrary on any definition, it becomes extravagantly so in view of 
Mr. Allen's fuller definition of religion, which is that religion properly 
so called consists in observances, ritual, prayer, ceremonial, sacrifices, 
and so on. 

" What is not at all essential to religion in its wider aspect — taking the 
world round, both past and present, Pagan, Buddhist, Mohammedan, 
Christian, savage and civilized— is the ethical element, properly so called. 
And what is very little essential indeed is the philosophical element, theology 
or mythology, the abstract theory of spiritual existences. This theory, to be 
sure, is in each country or race closely related with religion under certain 
aspects ; and the stories told about the Gods or God are much mixed up with 
the cult itself in the minds of worshippers ; but they are no proper part of 

religion, strictly so called Religion, as such, is essentially practical: 

theology or mythology, as such, is essentially theoretical [as if theory and 

practice were opposite or unconnected] I also believe that the two 

{i.e., the theory and the practice] have to a large extent distinct origins and 
roots : that the union between them is in great part adventitious : and that, 
therefore, to account for or explain the one is by no means equivalent to 
accounting for and explaining the other." 3 

This differentiation, it will be observed, is in part in almost complete 
agreement with that of Mr. Lang, whom Mr. Allen supposed himself 
to be setting aside. Both writers decide that the connection between 
mythology and religion is " accidental " or " adventitious," but they 
have very different ideas as to what constitutes religion ' strictly 
so-called." It begins to be pretty clear that these individual decisions 
as to what religion is to be are a mere element of gratuitous confusion, 
and that in the name of science they must be all disallowed. 

i Evolution of the Idea of God, p. 21. 2 Id. p. 438. 8 Id. pp. 22-23. 


" Religious" persons protest that religion and theology are different 
things, but insist that what Mr. Allen calls religion is not religion at 
all ; theologians protest that theology and mythology have nothing 
to do with each other, and that theology is just religion systematized 
and explained ; Mr. Lang in effect bears them out ; Julius Muller 
protests that religion is of the very essence of myth — as if there 
were no historical myths ; Ottfried Muller finds religion in the 
higher mythology ; Mr. Grant Allen scouts all alike, and declares 
religion to be simply ritual (which Mr. Lang declares to be mytho- 
logical and " irrational ") ; while Max Muller finds it now in cosmic 
emotion and now in cosmic apperception, both of which he yet sees 
in myths ; and Sack decides that it begins only after much of 
mythology and ritual is left behind. In the name of the intellectual 
commonwealth, we have a right to resist these illicit appropriations 
on the common domain of terminology. 

Scientifically speaking, the term religion covers all the pheno- 
mena under notice. Religion in the mass has always been mytho- 
logical, always ritualistic, always theological, always ethical, always 
connected with what cosmic emotion or apperception there was. 
These attributes are in themselves phases of human tendency which 
make and make-for religion. It is neither here nor there to say 
that in explaining one we do not explain the other. That is not 
pretended. But it is very easy to show, as against Mr. Allen, that 
stories about the God are in hundreds of cases efforts to explain the 
early ritual, while in other cases particularities of ritual originate in 
ideas about the God. Mr. Allen's dictum that " the Origin of Tales 
has nothing at all to do with the Origin of Worship" 1 is a mere 
violence of dogma. To come to the point, how could a ritual of 
prayer for wind or rain ever originate save in an idea about a God's 
character and function ? Is not the very idea of a God as a protect- 
ing Father (insisted on by Mr. Allen as the typical God-idea) a 
matter of telling a story about the God ? Is not the idea of a Bad 
Spirit correlative with that of a Good Spirit, and as such part and 
parcel of the religion of the believer in the latter ? Is Old Harry 
"nothing like" the Pan from whom he came? And above all, how 
could primitive men so keep their minds in watertight compartments 
as to make up their religion rigidly in terms of their thought and 
practice as corpse-worshippers and corpse-eaters, without letting it 
be affected by their thought and practice as story-tellers and makers 
of folk-lore ? 

1 P. 29. 


The division drawn by Mr. Allen is finally fantastic. Ideas 
about corpses and ancestors are demonstrably part of folk-lore. 
Every primitive practice connotes certain ideas, and every primitive 
idea connotes certain practice. The one force or law of differentia- 
tion in the matter is this : that whereas the whole of the ideas and 
the practices would in the earlier and ruder eras of savagery tend to 
be coherent or congruous, the elements of ignorance and fear tend to 
have the effect of maintaining an ancient practice or formula or 
myth after the ideas turning on it have been greatly modified by 
changes of life and culture-conditions, either material or social or 
both ; while on the other hand a practice or myth or doctrine that 
stands for one order of ideas with one set of minds may be imposed 
on another set with a very different order of ideas. But all alike are 
"religion." Not only are mythology and theology and ritual and 
law and ethic originally " connected": they are so of psychological 
necessity. By all means let us for purposes of elucidation trace 
their several developments, and the ever-advancing differentiation of 
some of them ; but let us not plunge anthropology in darkness by 
denying their perpetual and inevitable inter-reactions. 

We return perforce, then, to the anthropological position that 
primitive man fused instead of discriminating the states of mind 
which set up his myths and his cosmosophy, his ethic and his ritual. 
In the words of the supernaturalist Julius Miiller — here true to the 
evidence which his sympathies obscured for him when he came to the 
concrete problem over his own creed — the historical form and ideal 
purport of every myth or primitive usage ' are inseparable, and 
penetrate each other ; and it is only by the abstraction of a later 
age, from which all faith in the myth as such has vanished, that they 
are separated." 1 Such a separation is visibly a process of prejudice, 
and it cannot hold for those who follow scientific methods. 

Nor is it merely on grounds of systematic Naturalism that 
separatist courses are thus to be disallowed. If on the one hand 
an immature anthropology is found to join with the supernaturalist 
school in drawing lines of arbitrary severance between the 
co-operating elements in all historic religion, on the other hand men 
who still hold by the concept of revelation, but who nevertheless 
scrutinize religions in general in the spirit of scientific observation, 
insist that the definition of religion shall be faithful to historic fact. 
While one of the most eminent historians of religion, Dr. Tiele, 
persists in classifying all creeds under the two sundering titles of 

1 Review of Strauss in Studien und Kritiken, 1836; Eng. trans, in Voices of tlie Church 
against Dr. Strauss, 1845, p. 16. 


"Nature Religions" and "Ethical Religions" 1 — as if there were 
nothing ethical in the first, or natural in the second — others, not 
bent like Mr. Lang on making out the primordiality of " high " con- 
ceptions among men, nor yet upon rebutting the special claims of 
current creeds, recognize the essential continuity and coherence of 
all the phenomena. It is a Scottish clergyman of missionary 
experience, capable of elucidating the primitive religions he has 
studied at first hand, who puts the case thus : — 

" Religion in the widest sense may be defined as a man's attitude towards 
the unseen ; and the earliest forms of human thought furnish the clue from 
which must be traced the development of those great systems of religion that 
have at different periods been professed by the majority of men. Under the 
term ' religion ' we must include not only beliefs in unseen spiritual agencies, 
but numerous customs, superstitions, and myths which have usually been 
regarded, by both travellers and students, as worthless and degrading, till 
within a comparatively recent period." 2 

This, I cannot but think, is the only scientific attitude towards the 
phenomena. When a man of moral and reformative genius declares : 
"my country is the world; and my religion is to do good,"'^ he 
indeed gives a profoundly necessary stimulus to the moral sense of 
men hypnotized by tradition and ceremonial ; and his conception of 
a "Religion of Humanity" 4 may be turned to many valuable ends, 
whether or not we reckon among them a cult which in the name of 
Positivism imitates anxiously some of the institutions of super- 
stition. But to let such adaptation of old terms to new moral ends 
set up a hallucination as to the historic reality of religion throughout 
human evolution would be to effect a confusion which the original 
adaptor would be the first to repudiate, though he did lay it down 
that " All religions are in their nature kind and benign, and mixed 
with principles of morality. They could not have made proselytes 
at first by professing anything that was vicious, cruel, persecuting, 
or immoral"; 5 and again, " Every religion is good that teaches man 
to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad." 6 
Here we have yet another conception of "the essence of religion." 
Paine had unhappy cause to unlearn his optimism ; though he never 
flinched in his insistence that what he taught was true religion as 
against false. Any man is free thus to claim a customary name for 
an uncustomary creed, on the score that honoured names may fitly 

1 Cp. Chantepie de la Saussaye, Manual of the Science of Religion, Eng. tr. 1891, pp. 56-58. 

2 Rev. James Macdonald, Religion and Myth, 1893 (Nutt), p. 1. 

8 Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, part ii, ch. 5, Conway's ed. of Works, ii, 472. 

4 The phrase is used by Paine in his series The Crisis, No. 7, dated November 21, 1778. 

5 Rights of Man, part i, ed cited, ii, 327. 

6 Id. p. 504. Written before the Age of Reason. 


be given to the systems which best deserve honour. But when we 
are reducing to scientific form the facts of the mental history of 
mankind, the only applicable principle is that of the careful com- 
prehension of all facts ; ! and for that purpose we must either reject 
the word "religion" altogether, as having no accepted significance, 
or recognize the plain fact that it is generically extensible to all the 
credences and practices by which men ever supposed themselves 
in touch with or aware of what they conceived as Gods, extra-human 
personalities, intangible lives, and the doings of these. The sum of 
the matter is that while not all myths are properly to be described 
as religious, though all are framed under analogous conditions of 
speculative error, all historic religions are bound up with myth alike 
in their ethic and their cosmosophy or quasi-science. 2 

In fine, the God-idea = " true guise of religion," chased out of 
mythology with a fork, returns at every window. And we are led 
and driven to the solution that this attempt to sunder in the name 
of God what man primordially joined is an expression of some form 
of acquired or inherited prejudice — what, it is not necessary to 
ascertain. In Germany it may be either the ordinary religious 
heredity or an outcome of the influence of Hegel, who in his simple 
way classified religions so as to leave Christianity in an order by 
itself, labelled" Absolute Religion." In England, on the other hand 
(apart from the case of Mr. Allen), were it not for the line taken by 
Goldziher and Sack (both, I understand, of Hebrew descent), the 
attitude in question might be supposed to come of the perception 
that, the God-idea being common to all mythologies and all religions, 
it must be at least nominally kept out of the discussion, since if we 
avow this common ground we shall be driven to consider whether 
the Christian religion is not consanguineous with the rest in myth 
and ritual as well as in the other thing. And this, of course, must 
not be considered by a prudent English mythologist, even if he be 
at the point of view from which the problem can be properly seen. 
And that is never to be counted on. 

1 Compare Arnold: "Some people, indeed, are for calling all high thought and feeling 
by the name of religion ; according to that saying of Goethe : ' He who has art and science 
has also religion.' But let us use words as mankind generally use them " (Literature and 
Dogma, 5th ed. p. 21). 

a Mr. F. J. Gould, in his Concise History of Religion (i, 8), gives as an alternative 
definition of religion "the authority of a moral law" which may be "viewed as a purely 
human creation"; but I do not find in his interesting and useful volumes any instance of 
a "religion" which comes under this definition. 

Chapter IV. 

§ 1. Hebrew Mythology. 

AGAIN our first illustration of the difficulty is furnished by the case 
of Mr. Lang, who more or less avowedly resists the application of 
anthropology to the problem of Christian origins. He does not want 
to discuss these things ; he dislikes and disparages the view that the 
Judaic and Christian religions are products of normal evolution ; the 
evolution principle being in his hands valid only for the treatment 
of social origins and " absurd and offensive anecdotes." For him, 
the mythological discussions of the first half of the century, includ- 
ing the argument of Strauss, have been carried on pretty much in 
vain. On one occasion he has actually glanced at the question of 
Hebrew mythology ; and even on that, considered separately from 
the New Testament, he stands very much where Eichhorn did, over 
a hundred years ago. It is apropos of Renan's Histoirc du Peuple 
cV Israel that he writes : — 

"One has a kind of traditional objection to talking about the 'mythical' 
parts of the Old Testament. It is a way of speaking which must offend 
many people, perhaps needlessly ; and again, it does not convey quite a 
correct impression. Whatever else the stories in Genesis and Exodus may 
be, they have moral and intellectual qualities, seriousness, orderliness, 
sobriety, and, it may even be said, a poetic value, which are lacking in the 
mass of wild queries and fancies usually called myths. Whence this order- 
liness, sobriety, and poetry arise, why they are so solitary, so much confined 
to the ancient Hebrew literature, is exactly what we wish to know, and what 
M. Renan, perhaps, does not tell us." 1 

Save for the absence of fanaticism, this is very much the kind of 
opposition that was made in the eighteenth century to the earlier 
suggestions that the Bible contained mythology like the sacred books 
of other religions ; and it is significant of the retardative power of 
orthodox habit among us that it is necessary to-day to examine and 
answer such reasoning on the part of a professed mythologist. 

In the first place, Mr. Lang here implicitly unsays what he has 
so often said in other connections — that in Homer, to say nothing of 
the Attic tragedians, there are qualities of seriousness, orderliness, 

1 Art. ou "Mythology and the Bible," in Neiv Beview, vol. i, 1889, p. 279. 



sobriety, " and, it may even be said, a poetic value," all imposed 
upon mythical matter. He has expressly told us, as did others 
before him, that Homer rejected or ignored " absurd and offensive 
anecdotes" known to be current in his time; and that Pindar 
avowedly did the same ; and if, after all he has said of Homer, he 
will not now credit the Iliad with the qualities aforesaid, the rest of 
us must do it as against him. Homer has maintained dominion 
over men's appreciation all through the Christian period, either in 
the full understanding that his Gods never existed, or on the 
assumption that they were " demons "; while the Hebrew Bible has 
held its place on the express declaration that it was the one divinely- 
inspired book in the world before the New Testament, and that it 
contained nothing but the purest truth. In the terms of the case it 
is impossible that the Greek epics could have held their ground if 
they had not exhibited seriousness, orderliness, sobriety, in a 
relatively high degree ; and if they had been bound up in one volume 
with selected works of the tragedians and the philosophers, all of 
whom use the same God-names, the distinction that Mr. Lang seeks 
to draw could hardly have been ventured on by anybody. 

In the second place, if the " absurd and offensive " elements in 
the best Greek poetry deprive it of title to the qualities ascribed by 
Mr. Lang to the Pentateuch, there are assuredly absurd and offensive 
elements enough in that to destroy the credit that he so liberally 
gives it. If Mr. Lang sees nothing but sobriety and orderliness in 
the two irreconcilable accounts of the creation ; in the positing of 
light before there was sun ; in the story of the serpent and the fall ; 
in the ascription to man of the conception of death before death had 
ever occurred ; in the talk of Yahweh with Cain ; in the cryptogram 
of the crime of Lamech ; in the theory and the procedure of the 
flood ; in the two versions of the tale of the ark ; in the anecdotes 
about the exposure of Noah and the proceedings of Lot's daughters ; 
in the narrative of the command to Abraham to sacrifice his son ; 
in the story of his duplicated dealings with Pharaoh and Abimelech ; 
in the further duplication of the same ^pleasing anecdote in the case 
of Isaac ; in the allegation that Sarah at the age of ninety bore a 
child to her centenarian husband; in Yahweh's wrangle with her 
beforehand, and the duplication of the laughing episode ; in Yahweh's 
instructions to Abraham about circumcision ; in the details of the 
connubial life of Abraham and Jacob ; in the massacre of the 
Sichemites by Simeon and Levi, and the ethical comment of their 
father ; in his allocution to his sons — if in this string of alternately 
absurd and coarse anecdotes and of obscure rhapsodies, all in the 



book of Genesis alone, Mr. Lang does not see exactly the charac- 
teristics of the " mass " of barbaric myth, one can but say that it is 
impossible to follow his distinctions. To call such a narrative sober 
and orderly as a whole in comparison with either Hesiod or Homer 
is to throw all criticism into confusion. 

And the Hebrew compilation, be it observed, represents a 
relatively late and literary state of Hebrew culture. Even Eenan, 
with all his inconsistencies and laxities of method, sufficiently 
answers Mr. Lang's question as to how whatever comparative order 
and sobriety we find in the Pentateuch came to be there. These 
books represent a prolonged and repeated process of redaction, repre- 
senting the effects of Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian 
culture on the previously semi-civilized Jews — the systematic effort 
to gloss polytheism into the form of monotheism, and to modify the 
most glaring crudities of primitive anthropomorphism and pastoral 
barbarism. It is obvious from the context, for instance, that in the 
story of Jacob's wrestle with the "man" the antagonist was 
originally Yahweh — the Yahweh who had familiar conversations 
with Cain and Abraham and Sarah. And this is but one of a 
hundred inferrible improvements of the text by the later theologians. 
Mr. Lang lays special stress on the story of the mutilation of 
Uranus by Kronos as a sample of the element of savage survival in 
Greek myth. But if he had perused an easily accessible work on 
Hebrew mythology he would have learned that in the Eabbinical 
literature there is preserved the tradition that Cham, " the black " 
son, mutilated his father Noah ; 1 and if he had looked further into 
the matter he would have found that a slight vowel alteration of one 
word in the present text would give that sense. 2 Now the context 
makes it practically certain that this was the original form of the 
story; 3 and we are thus dealing with a Hebrew adaptation on all 
fours with the oft-cited practice of Pindar, who refused to say that 
one of the blessed Gods was a mad glutton, and of Homer, who 
simply left the worst stories out. The difference is that whereas 
Pindar made a clean breast of the whole matter, and Homer simply 
set aside the unmanageable, the Hebrew redactors, in their usual 
way, falsified the text. 

This is not the occasion to attempt even to outline the main features 

1 Goldziher, Mythology among the Hebretvs, p. 131, citing tract. Sanhedrim, 70a. 

2 The old mythologist Andrew Tooke, in his Pantheon (1713), argued that the Greeks had 
taken their story from Genesis, misreading the word in question as they so easily might. 

3 "The God who mutilates his father and eats his children is of genuinely North- 
Semitic origin" (Tiele, Outlines, p. 209). But cp. Meyer (Gesch. des Alt., ii, 103, Anm.), who 
seems to dispute the point. The solution may lie in an early iEgean derivation. 


of Hebrew mythology ; but it is justifiable to say, first, that a great 
deal of the heterogeneous narrative of the Biblical books has long 
been satisfactorily identified as normal primitive mythology — as 
clearly so as other portions have been shown to be purposive sacer- 
dotal fiction — and that when rational tests are more rigorously and 
more vigilantly applied, much that still passes as history will 
probably be resolved into manipulated myth. That Joshua is a 
purely mythical personage was long ago decided by the historical 
criticism of the school of Colenso and Kuenen ; that he was originally 
a solar deity can be established at least as satisfactorily as the solar 
character of Moses, if not as that of Samson. And when we note 
that in Eastern tradition (which preserves a variety of myths that 
the Bible-makers for obvious reasons suppressed or transformed) 
Joshua is the son of the mythical Miriam 1 — that is to say, that 
there was probably an ancient Palestinian Saviour- Sun-God, Jesus 
the son of Mary — we are led to surmise that the elucidation of the 
Christ myth is not yet complete. 

If the religion of Yahweh be compared in its main aspects with 
those around it, instead of being isolated from them in thought as 
an " ethical system," it reveals even in its highly sophisticated form 
the plainest mythical kinships. To say nothing of the various 
elements of myth dealt with by Dr. Goldziher and other recent 
mythologists, there are clear connections, some of them noted long 
ago and since ignored, between the worship of Dionysos and the 
worship of Yahweh, one of the connecting links being the myth of 
Moses. In the etymological explanation of the horns 3 of Moses lies 
a possible clue to the horns of Dionysos. The Hebrew language has 
but one word, Keren, for " horn" and "ray"; 3 and as Moses' horns 
are certainly solar, it may be that there was verbal pressure behind 
the early conception of Dionysos as a bull. In any case, since 
Yahweh was actually worshipped as a young bull, 4 it appears that 
Moses is at one point but an aspect of the same myth. Dionysos 
is among other things the Zeus or Iao of Nysa or Sinai, being the 
Horned One, dwelling there in the mountain, 5 even as did Yahweh ; 
but for the rest he duplicates mainly with Moses. As the babe 
Moses is set afloat in the basket of bulrushes, the babe Dionysos is 
carried in the basket in the sacred procession. 6 Like Moses, 

1 Chronicle of Tabari, ed. Paris, 1867, i, 396. The tradition as to Joshua occurs in the 
Persian version, not in the Arabic original. The Jewish books would naturally drop the 

2 Exodus xxxiv. 29, Rev. Vers, rnarg. 3 Goldziher, p. 179. 

4 1 Kings xii, 28; Hosea viii. 4-6. Cp. Judges viii, 27; Hosea viii, 5. Moloch was 
similarly imaged. 

5 Strabo, xv. 1, §'9. 6 See hereinafter, Christ and Krishna, §§ 12, 13. 


Dionysos strikes water from the ground with his rod ;* like Moses, 
he crosses the sea with his host; 2 and in the " twofold rocks" of 
Dionysos 3 lies the probable myth-basis of the two stone tables on 
which Moses wrote the law on Sinai. On the other hand, it is 
Yahweh who appears to Moses within a bush ; 4 and within a bush 
Dionysos was frequently represented in ancient art. 5 But the story 
that the grave of Moses could never be found is evidently a com- 
promise between the Evemerism of the Yahwists and the early myth, 
in which Moses must needs have gone to heaven like Dionysos, as 
did Enoch and Elijah. 

There are, however, yet other parallels. In the Greek cult of 
Demeter much was made of the place Petroma, " two large stones 
fitting into one another." At the annual celebration of the great 
rites these were detached, and some writings relative to the rites 
were taken out, read from, and replaced. " By Petroma " was the 
most sacred oath for the people of Pheneus ; and the stones bore a 
covering, inside which was a mask of Kedarian Demeter. At the 
annual celebration the priest put on this mask over his robes (even 
as Moses put on his veil in the presence of the people before and 
after speaking with the Lord 6 ), and in fulfilment of the ancient rite 
11 struck the earth with rods and summoned the Gods of the nether 
world " 7 — another variant of the acts of Dionysos and Moses. And 
yet again it was told of the mythic Cretan king and lawgiver Minos 
— a solar figure of which the traces go clear back to the early 
" Aegean " period — that either once or many times he entered an 
ancient and holy cave to hold intercourse with his father Zeus, and 
receive from him laws for the island of Crete. 8 

For the earlier Christian mythologist, the solution of such 
coincidences was simple : the Pagan stories were of course perversions 
of the Hebrew history ; and our own contemporaries have the 
encouragement of Mr. Lang to fall back on a similar view — at least 
to the extent of deciding that the Mosaic myth is actual history. If 
anyone with the facts of Comparative Mythology before him can 
rest in such a faith, he is certainly past argument. If the story of 
the giving of the law on Sinai be not a myth, the word has no 

1 Pausanias, iv. 36. 2 Diodorus Siculus, iii, 65. 

3 Euripides. Jon, 1126-7. The statement in the Orphic Hymns that Dionysos wrote his 
law on two tables of stone— a datum founded on by Voltaire— is now abandoned as a late 
Jewish forgery. But the passage in Euripides points to the original of all forms of the 

4 Exodus iii, 2-4. First it is the "angel of the Lord" who appears in the bush, then it 
is " God " (Elohim), " the Lord" (Yahiveh) being named in the same sentence— clear traces 
of the process of redaction. Cp. Deut. xxxiii, 16. 

5 Cp. Frazer, Golden Bough, 1st ed. i, 321, and refs. 

6 Exodus xxxiv, 33, 35. 7 Pausanias, viii, 15. 
8 Preller. G iech. Myth. 2nd ed. ii, 119, and refs. Cp. Lactantius, Div. Inst, i, 22. 


meaning ; and nothing but an irrationalist bias can account for the 
capacity to accept such a record in the case of men who profess to 
accept also the principle of evolution in human things. A set of 
laws which, so far as they are really ethical, represent the alphabet 
of all social law, and are seen to have been independently attained 
by all peoples, with or without similar myths of revelation, are 
alleged to have been communicated by theophany to a tribal leader 
on a mountain top, and to have been by him there engraved on two 
tables of stone which he afterwards broke ; and we are invited by a 
professed evolutionist, as we shall see presently, to recognize an 
abnormal verisimilitude in the tale. 

So long, of course, as educated publicists like Professor Max 
Muller and the late Matthew Arnold talk of Abraham as a historical 
character, who probably discovered the principle of Monotheism ; 
so long as Moses is believed by Positivists 2 to have been a real leader 
who invented the Ten Commandments ; so long as the feats of 
Elijah and the cheats of Jacob are gravely handled by clerical 
scholars as natural episodes of Eastern life ; so long as authorities 
like Mr. Gladstone swear by the flood — and, be it added, so long as 
comparative mythologists can write on the whole matter as does 
Mr. Lang — it will be difficult to set up in the reading world that 
state of mind which shall at once encourage and chasten the activity 
of mythological science in the Biblical direction. But even Mr. 
Lang seems to perceive, and resent, some such movement of the 
general intelligence. Complaining of the vagueness of Eenan's 
account of Hebrew religious origins, he speaks somewhat tartly of 
its being welcomed by " the clever superficial men and women who 
'think that everything has been found out, when next to nothing has 
been found out at all ; who disbelieve in Authority, and do believe 
in ' authorities."' 3 The psychic state revealed in this utterance is 
something to be reckoned with in our inquiry, exhibited as it is 
further in the previously cited protest against "offending many 
people" by talking of Old Testament mythology. It is hardly 
necessary to point out that we are not dealing with a spirit of pure 
humanitarianism or disinterested benevolence. Mr. Lang has no 
special scruples about offending a good many sorts of people — the 
clever superficial men and women," for instance ; and he has never 
shown any great reluctance to dishearten or to ridicule those persons 
who, instead of making much of the Paradise and Promised Land 

1 Muller, Chips from a German Workshop,1868, i, 371-5; Physical Beligion, 1891, pp. 220-1. 
Arnold, Literature and Dogma, 5th ed. p. 32. 

2 See The New Calendar of Great Men, edited by Frederic Harrison, 1892, p. 5. 

3 Art. cited, p. 284. 


of Genesis, try to frame and reach paradises and promised lands for 
themselves or their posterity. Mr. Lang's mercies are somewhat 
straitly covenanted. He rather enjoys hinting that those who take 
a rationalistic view of the reigning religion are at best clever and 
superficial, and easily gullible by authorities : his protecting 
sympathies are only for the superficial men and women who are 
not clever, who think everything that is found out goes to corroborate 
the Bible, and who believe in both Authority and authorities, holding 
by the Word of God and taking the word of Dr. Samuel Kinns. 

On all of which it may suffice to observe, first, that the common 
run of the men and women in question have themselves never shown 
the slightest concern for the susceptibilities either of those who 
cannot accept their creed, or of those who hold other creeds ; that 
on the contrary they have shown a very general disposition to 
ostracize and ruin those who openly disagree with them, and are 
thus not entitled to anything more than the normal courtesies of 
debate on vital issues ; and, secondly, that science has nothing to 
do with susceptibilities beyond taking care to use decent language. 
Mr. Lang repeatedly applies to non-Christian systems and creeds, 
some of them contemporary, such terms as ' sacerdotage," " anec- 
dotage," and " foolish faith." Such being his latitude, other mytho- 
logists may surely go the length of calling Hebrew mythology 
Hebrew mythology. And if the good " many people " are hurt by 
such language, they have always open to them the twofold resort 
of crying "infidelity" and of turning their backs on the subject. 
What were they doing in that galley ? 

Coming back to the sphere of scientific argument, we note that 
Mr. Lang after all admits some of the most prominent of the Penta- 
teuchal narratives to be as downright myths as any in the world. 
The stories of the finding of Moses and the passage of the Eed Sea, 
he writes, are " myths found all the world over " — the first being 
"a variant of 'The Man Born to be King' — Cyrus, Eomulus, 
Oidipous — the exposed Eoyal child," while variants of the sea- 
passage are "nearly universal." It is to be feared that these con- 
cessions will give a good deal of pain to " many people." Mr. Lang, 
however, adds a demurrer : — 

"But the rest, the wonderful tale of the Plagues, of the death of the first- 
born, of the pillar and the cloud, the night and the fire? What genius 
invented these, which are not part of the world's common treasury of myth ? 
This may be a mere literary question, and yet one suspects the presence of 
some strange historical facts." 1 

1 Art. cited, p. 286. 


It is a little difficult to deal with such very tentative orthodoxy ; 
but we may put the answer in the form of a few questions. 

1. Inasmuch as isolated and peculiar myths are found in most 
systems, is it to be normally assumed that either (a) a genius 
invented them or (b) we must surmise " the presence of some strange 
historical facts"? 

2. Is there anything so very staggering to the rationalist position 
in the view that a Jewish genius may have had a hand in the 
redaction of the Pentateuch ? 

3. Is there, after all, anything abnormal in the development of 
a myth of ten plagues in an intellectual climate in which plagues of 
drought and flood and vermin and disease and dragons were con- 
stantly ascribed to the punitive action of deity ? For example, if 
Apollo had been said to send ten plagues on the Greeks at Troy 
instead of one, should we have been any more entitled to " suspect 
the presence of some strange historical facts "? Or does a story of 
ten plagues suggest ten times the amount of genius required to make 
a story of one plague ? 

4. Seeing that ten, as the " finishing " and " completing " number, 1 
was one of the favourite mythic and regulative numbers in antiquity 
— e.g., the ten commandments, the ten ages of the Etruscans, the 
ten spheres of the Pythagoreans, the ten adults needed to make a 
Jewish synagogue, the ten made by the nine Muses and their head, 
Apollo, the ten made for Arabs and Persians by the nine heavenly 
spheres and the earth ; the usage of tithes, and so on — is not the 
particular total of ten plagues rather a reason for inferring systematic 
invention than for suspecting the presence of some strange historical 
facts ? 

5. If Mr. Lang had met with a story of ten plagues in any other 
ancient literature, and all ten of them monstrous miracles, would he 
have dreamt of raising any question of historical fact ? Would he 
not rather have put the ten tales under his general heading of absurd 
— if not offensive — anecdotes ? 

6. Is it exactly wise on the part of a modern Theist, whether 
writing as a mythologist or as joint author of The World's Desire, 

1 See the references in Bahr, Symbolik des Mosaischen CulUis, i, 175-183. So strong 
was the inclination to apply this principle that in various myths a divine child is said 
to have been ten months in the womb. E.g., Hermes (Horn. Hymn, 1. 11) and the Muses 
(Hesiod, Theog., 58, where the year=ten months). This idea may very well have originated 
in the lunar computation, wherein ten months would be little more than nine solar 
months; but the higher number is mythically preserved after the solar division is 
instituted. Cp. Virgil, Eel. iv, 61 ; and see Diogenes Laertius {Pythagoras, xix.) as to the 
Pythagorean biology. In the Pythagorean astronomy the "counter-earth" (Antichthon) 
was invented simply to bring up to ten the number of bodies of the central system (sun, 
moon, earth, five planets, and central fire). Berry, Short History of Astronomy, 1898, p. 25. 


to suggest that his deity and Heavenly Father, " who is not far 
from any one of us," 1 really operated on the intelligence of a 
stubborn king by decimal affliction and final massacres among that 
king's subjects? 

7. Does " the rest " include the wondrous tales of the per- 
formances of the rods of Moses and Aaron ; or are these forms of 
narrative which could be evolved without setting up the impression 
of " strange historical facts "? 

Perhaps we have sufficiently considered the wonderful story of 
the plagues, and may spare ourselves the discussion of the pillars of 
fire and cloud, remarking that no supernatural genius would seem to 
be necessary for the adding of these items to a story which all 
sober Biblical criticism has admitted to be an utterly incredible 
compilation of fictions. 2 It is hardly worthy of a professed cultivator 
of a branch of historical and mental science thus to darken counsel 
for the "superficial men and women" by suggesting that there are 
some supernatural facts behind a narrative which so many religionists 
of a rather more earnest sort have definitely given up as unhistorical. 
But Mr. Lang distorts the problem from first to last. " Manifestly," 
he writes, " the Chaldaean cosmogonic myth was a medley of early 
metaphysics and early fable, like other cosmogonies. Why is the 
Biblical story so different in character?" 3 It is not different in 
character. It is a medley of early metaphysics and early fable — 
early, that is, relatively to known Hebrew history. It ties together 
two creation stories and two flood stories ; it duplicates several sets 
of mythic personages — as Cain and Abel, Tubal- Cain and Jabal ; it 
grafts the curse of Cham on the curse of Cain, making that finally 
the curse of Canaan ; it tells the same offensive story twice of one 
patriarch and again of another; it gives an early "metaphysical" 
theory of the origin of death, life, and evil ; it adapts the Egyptian 
story of the " Two Brothers," or the myth of Adonis, in the history 
of Joseph ; it makes use of various God-names, pretending that they 
always stood for the same deity ; it repeats traditions concerning 
mythic founders of races : if all this be not a " medley of early 
fable," what is ? Mr. Lang's discrimination is unintelligible unless 
he be taken merely to mean that the Hebrew redactors, proceeding 
professionally on collected materials with a sacerdotal purpose, 

1 Myth, Ritual, r and Religion, 1st ed. i, 340. 

2 Early in the eighteenth century Toland, in his Hodegus, undertook to show that the 
" cloud " was simply the smoke of the night's guiding-fire. We know to-day that the whole 
story of the life in the wilderness is a myth ; but Toland's Evemerism may serve well 
enough to meet Mr. Lang's supernaturalism. 

3 Art. cited, p. 281. 


wrought them up in greater fulness and elaboration than belonged 
to the older records. But that is exactly what a dozen Greek 
mythographers and Hindu poets did with their materials : there is 
no mystery in the matter. 

Nor is there anything more than uncritical rhetoric in Mr. Lang's 
final deliverance that " Behind it all is the mystery of race and of 
selection. It is an ultimate fact in the history and government of 
the world, the eminent genius of one tiny people for religion." He 
might here, indeed, cite on his side many sayings of M. Eenan's 
earlier days, the days when he told the world, as Bunsen had done, 
that the Hebrews were destitute of a mythology — a proposition 
which has been rejected by nearly every student of mythology, I 
think, that has discussed it. 1 So incoherent was Eenan's thought 
on the subject that he alternately presented the Semites as marked 
by a " minimum of religion " and a special genius or instinct for it 
— the theorem now endorsed by Mr. Lang. But the pre-scientific 
assumption of an innate genius for anything in an entire people 
must give way before science, like all other apriorisms. As Mr. Lang 
indicates, any special development of bias or faculty in any people 
is a matter of "selection," not in the Darwinian sense that the 
special development enables the people to survive where others would 
succumb, but in the sense that special conditions bring the special 
development about. There is no more mystery in the matter than 
in any other natural process — much less, indeed, than in those of 

This, of course, is a matter of sociology ; and sociology among 
us is kept fully as backward as mythology by religious prejudice ; 
but even in the light of the mere history of Jewry as rationally 
re-written by modern Hebraists, 3 Mr. Lang's difficulties cease to 
exist. We have but to recognize the Hebrews (l) as groups of 
Palestinian tribes, welded now and then into kingdoms, in one of 
which, during centuries, the cult of Yahweh, previously special to 
Judah, 4 is at times officially imposed^ over all others, setting up at 
Jerusalem a would-be unique source of sacrificial and other revenue. 5 

1 It is rejected by Kuenen, Goldziher, Steinthal, Robertson Smith, and Max Muller, as 
well as by Ewald. It is accepted by Noldeke, Spiegel, Roscher (the economist), Draper. 
Bluntschli, and Peschel, none of them a mythologist, unless it be Spiegel. See refs. in 
the author's Short History of Freethought, i. 

2 Cp. Max Muller, Chips from a German Workshop, i, 350-1. 
8 I.e., Kuenen, Wellhausen, Sack, Stade, Winckler, etc. 

4 Saul is described (1 Sam. xiv, 35) as building his first altar to Yahweh after driving out 
the Philistines with the aid of Judah. Later he massacres the priests of Yahweh (Id. xxii, 
17-19). That he himself was a worshipper of Baal appears from his son's and grandson's 
names (1 Chron. viii, 33-34; ix, 39-40), perverted by the Yahwists (2 Sam. ii, 8; iv, 4). 
Yahweh, on the other hand, was also the God of the Gibeonites, who were Amorites. 
Cp. 2 Sam. vi, 3 and xxi, 2. 

5 Goldziher (chs. vii, viii) conceives the special development of Yahwistic monotheism 


We are to remember, none the less (2), that in despite of such 
efforts, which were intermittent (many of the kings being polytheists, 
or anti-Yahwists), the natural and inveterate polytheism of the 
people subsists in all directions, so that a Yahwist prophet can 
describe the inhabitants even of the capital as having as many 
Baal-altars as streets, and Judah as having no fewer Gods than 
cities. 1 This polytheistic people (3), after undergoing defeat and 
depopulation by Assyria, and chronic invasion by other powers, 
thus going on the whole backward in its civilization and culture, is 
utterly overthrown, and all save its poorest are carried bodily into 
captivity by the new military power of Babylon, the conqueror of 
Assyria. There its scholarly and priestly members come into contact 
with a religion kindred to that of Yahweh, but far more literate, far 
more fully documented, associated with some development of scientific 
knowledge, and carried on by an endowed and leisured scholarly 
class, among whom the monotheistic idea has emerged by way of 
syncretic philosophy, as it had earlier done in India and Egypt, 
from either of which directions it may have been carried to Babylonia. 
This principle (4) is by the Yahweh devotees among the Jews imposed 
on their merely tribal or nationalistic belief, with the result (among 
the most fanatical) of making out the One God to be the God of the 
Jews and housed at Jerusalem, the rest of the nations of the world 
having no real God at all, though haply they might each be allowed 
a guardian angel whom God punishes with his nation when he goes 
wrong. 2 Thus far, at most, had its innate genius for religion, in 
contact with a much wider religious system, carried the " tiny 
people" by the time of the Captivity. 

And now occurred the first main act of a process of " selection " 
which to this day has sufficed to set on a false scent the amateurs 
of a priori sociology. When Cyrus, having conquered Babylon, gave 
permission to those Jews who would to return to Jerusalem, it was 
not " the " Jews who returned, but simply those Jews who, in contact 
with a higher culture, grew more and not less fanatical in their 
special tribal cult, albeit they were irresistibly influenced by their 
surroundings towards putting a higher form on it. That the Return 
was thus partial and sectarian there is abundant evidence, not only 
in the new sacerdotal literature, but in the testimony of those much 

to have occurred in terms of national enthusiasm and patriotic self-consciousness ; and no 
doubt that might assist. But other nations were zealously patriotic without giving up 
polytheism; and another factor is needed to account for the positive elevation and 
localization of a cult formerly more widespread, and conjoined with others. The short- 
coming of Goldziher's theory lies in the usual tendency to narrow the process of explana- 
tion. All the political and psychological conditions must be taken into account. 
1 Jeremiah xi,13. a Dan. x, 13,20; Isa. xxiv, 21. 


more numerous Jews who remained in Babylon. The account of 
the latter, apparently endorsed by many of the later Palestinians, is 
that " they were only the bran, that is, the dregs of the people, that 
returned to Jerusalem after the end of the Captivity, and that all 
the fine flour stayed behind at Babylon." 1 Whatever may be the 
precise value of that estimate, it sufficiently accords with the fact 
that the Jews of the Beturn, both under Zerubbabel and under Ezra, 
were mostly pedantic ceremonialists, who narrowed down the name 
of Jew to those of the Captivity that had returned and had not 
intermarried with foreigners. Meantime the natural diversity of 
thought and faculty which belonged to the Jews as to other nations 
was merged in the foreign populations, from Media to Egypt, in 
which they had scattered themselves during century after century 
of invasion and oppression, as they did still later after the Boman 

Already, however, the factitious literature even of the fanatical 
Yahwists had begun to take on the colouring of the Chaldean 
culture of Babylon, which was actually claimed as a distinction by 
the men of the Beturn. Zodiacal ideas, drawn thence, are developed 
in Jacob's list of his children's characters, and in the story of 
Joseph's dream ; the task of a prophet, formerly exhortation, now 
becomes prediction, on Chaldean lines ; the lore of angels becomes 
a prominent part of the system ; and as time goes on and the 
Persian cult in turn influences Jewry, the principle of the Adversary, 
the Evil Power, is woven into the concocted history of the past ; 
the idea of a Hades emerges ; while the comparatively civilized 
secular law of the new power, doubtless with modifications, is 
embodied in the pretended law of Moses, and credited to the 
theocracy. The very institution of the synagogue dates from the 
Babylonian sojourn. What is special to the Judaic life is just the 
systematic writing-up of Yahwism, and the turning of the old local 
deities into servants of Yahweh, as part of a deliberately-invented 
though much redacted body of false history. Thus Moses and 
Joshua, obviously solar personages both, and as such old Saviour- 
Gods (Mosheh being " the raiser-up," and Joshua or Oshea " the 
Saviour" or "Conqueror"), are made the leaders of a miraculous 
theocratic deliverance and conquest in the prehistoric period ; while 
the tribal legends of divine founders become the biographies of patri- 
archs ; 2 and various myths concerning the Gods Shamas and El and 

1 Prideaux, The Old and New Testaments Connected, part i, book iii (ed. 1815, i, 178), 
citing Talmud Bab. in Kiddushim. 

2 As to the God-names Jacob and Joseph, see Sayce, Hibbert Lectures on the Babylonian 
Beligion, p. 51, and Records of the Past, New Series, v, 48. 


David and Saul and Solomon 1 are reduced to biographic details in 
the lives of Samson, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and David. In all this 
there is doubtless a faculty for cult-building ; but it is a kind of 
faculty on all fours with any other deliberate specialism, such as 
Brahmanic metaphysic or Roman law ; and it is not very advan- 
tageous to religion to describe it as a genius for that. 

All that is relatively high in Judaism, in fine, is demonstrably 
forced or grafted on the primitive cult from without. Kenan's 
phrases about " the clean and sober imagination of Israel," oddly 
objected to by Mr. Lang, are quite in his own spirit, and belong to 
the pre-scientific interpretation of history, in which all phenomena 
are explained in terms of themselves. The most admired Biblical 
book, that of Job, if written by a Jew at all, is by one who had 
been in contact with the life and culture of Persia, Arabia, and 
Egypt, and is certainly post-exilic. The quasi-monotheism and 
ethical universalism of the later prophets is similarly a product of 
foreign influences ; and to the last it never overcame the indurated 
tribalism and ceremonialism of the mass of the selected people, 
for whom its God is the tenant of one temple, so long as that temple 
lasts ; whereafter he figures as the " Chief Rabbi of Heaven." For- 
merly he had spent three hours a day in " playing with Leviathan "; 
but after the fall of the holy city the heavenly court is in mourning, 
and the hours formerly given to recreation are spent in instructing 
those who had died in infancy." 2 Such was the "genius for 
religion " exhibited by the Jewish doctors before they began to 
acquire new heathen lore from contact with the Saracens. As for 
their ethic, only in the hands of the superior few among the Rabbis 
does it surpass the measure of altruistic thought which Mr. Lang 
for another purpose credits to the aborigines of Australia and Africa. 3 

Finally, Christianity is on its theological side an unquestionable 
adaptation of the Pagan principle of theanthropic sacrifice ; and on 
its ethical side is merely a blending, good and bad, of late Graeco- 
Jewish and Gentile teaching. Its supposed antecedents in Essenism 
are themselves of late and foreign origination in Jewry. The quality 
of a genius for religion might just as well be ascribed to the Egyptians, 
the Chaldeans, the Arabs, the Persians, the Hindus, or the Austra- 
lians, as to the Jews. The express doctrine of the latter, since the 
closing of their canon, is a negation of all progress in religion ; and 

1 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 52-57, and article on "The Names of the First Kings of 
Israel " in the Modern Bevieiv. January, 1884 ; W'inckler, Gesehichte Israels, ii, 170 sq. 

2 Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation after the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1856, 
p. 462, citing the Avoda Sara. 

3 The Making of Religion-, p. 195, etc. 


their accumulated literature of commentary has less intellectual 
value than anything of its bulk and kind in the world. The race as 
a religious group in Europe stands collectively for mere mental fixa- 
tion and separatism, the result first of its own claims and secondarily 
of the hostile reaction they set up, alike among Pagans and Chris- 
tians. The fact of the preservation of the bulk of the later hetero- 
geneous Hebrew literature as a mass of sacred books — mutually 
contradictory as so many of them are — is in itself only another 
sociological fact, which in its kind is paralleled in different degrees 
in the cases of Brahminism, Buddhism, and Mohammedanism, as well 
as of Christianity ; and the religious separateness and persistence of 
the Jews is a phenomenon strictly analogous to that of the survival 
of the Parsees. To call it all a special and peculiar mystery is 
merely to raise mystification. In medieval and modern times, as in 
ancient, Jewish faculty like every other is evoked and developed by 
special conditions and culture-contacts ; and the special phenomenon 
of Jewish religiosity is no more a mystery than Japanese art or 
Eussian fiction. 

§ 2. Christianity and "Degeneration." 

When the mythological basis of Hebrew religion, conceded a 
century ago by German theologians, is thus put back in doubt by 
professedly anthropological mythologists to-day, the problems of 
Christian mythology are naturally kept far in the background. 
Excepting Sir George Cox, 1 hardly one of the later professed mytho- 
logists, either English or continental, has a word to say on the 
subject. Only in the last sentence of his valuable book 2 does 
Dr. Frazer glance at the obvious survival of theanthropic sacrifice 
and the Tree Cult in the Christian religion. In this connection we 
find the procedure of the anthropological school completely reversed, 
with the tacit consent of such authorities as Mr. Lang. In its 
treatment of " pagan " myth the aim is always to go back to the 
earliest forms, to ignore their symbolical development and later 
ethical connotations : in the treatment of Christianity the principle 
is to pass over the concrete myth forms altogether and consider only 
the metaphysic and the ethic that have been grafted on them ; or to 
admit as myths only the Catholic inventions of the Middle Ages. 
So rooted is the habit that the most recalcitrant theories are 

1 Cp. his lectures in The Religious Systems of the World, 3rd ed. pp. 218, 241, 242-3, 
245, end. 

2 This applies only to the first edition. In the second edition (1900) the Christian 
problem is dealt with, albeit ineffectually. 


accommodated to it. We have seen Mr. Lang treating the Hebrew 
religion as disparate and superior to those of other ancient peoples. 
We have seen him again, in a later work, arguing strenuously for a 
"pure" primeval monotheism in which the God was not sacrificed 
to ; sacrifice being in his opinion a descent to a lower plane of 
thought — albeit perhaps by " supernormal " means. Finally, he 
speaks of the religion of Israel as " probably a revival and purifica- 
tion of the old conception of a moral, beneficent creator, whose 
creed had been involved in sacrifice and anthropomorphic myth " — 
this in the face of the facts that the written Hebrew religion contains 
a mass of anthropomorphic myths, tempered by interpolated denial, 
and that the historic Hebrew religion was one of systematic sacrifice, 
so much so that the temple at Jerusalem had normally the aspect 
of a shambles. Such are the accommodations granted to the 
religions that be. Then, when we come to Christianity (a fresh 
grafting of a pagan sacrificial and propitiatory creed on the old, 
albeit by way of abolishing animal sacrifice), instead of classifying 
this on his general principle as a process of " degeneration," 
Mr. Lang treats it as the consummation of the " pure " theory, with 
the " priceless " doctrine of immortality added as a gift from 
Animism. Freely granting that Christianity in the Middle Ages 
developed a multitude of 7Mrc/i<m-myths, 2 whereof " the stuff is the 
same as are nature myths and divine myths," 3 he does not once 
recognize that the Gospels themselves contain matter equally 
mythical. On the contrary, he assumes that Christianity was 
"given pure," and that only the late popular accretions are 

In this connection, where Mr. Lang sets aside his own doctrine 
of "degeneration," we may fitly ask what is the true formula. If 
we suppress most of the facts about Judaism, describing it as a 
"pure" monotheism, in the misleading fashion of Mr. Lang and 
Mr. Huxley, 4 we may easily see degeneration in the Christian poly- 
theism grafted upon it. In a certain sense, Mr. Lang's theory of 
the triumph of the " squarable " God does actually here hold good. 
As in the Zoroastrian system the cult of Mithra gradually supersedes 
in a measure that of Ahura-Mazda, so, for the Jews and others who 
adopted it, the cult of Jesus in a measure superseded that of 
Yahweh or the " Theos " in general ; and this obviously because the 
humanized and suffering God comes home to "the business and 
bosoms of men " — and women — so much more easily than does the 

1 Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2nd ed. ii, 329. 2 Id. i, 5, 325; ii, 304, etc. 

8 Id. ii, 305. 4 Collected Essays, iv, 312, 363. 


remote Creator. The cults of Attis, Adonis, Demeter and Perse- 
phone, Herakles, Dionysos, Isis and Osiris, all flourished for just such 
reasons in comparison with the cults of Zeus, Ptah, Ra, and the 
rest of the " high " Gods. And for the same reason, again, the cult 
of the Virgin Mary in later times overlaid the cult of Jesus, who in 
turn, as Logos and Judge and part of the Ineffable Trinity, receded 
into a cloudier majesty in exact proportion as the Mother was 
obtruded on popular reverence. As Mother and Woman she was, 
in Mr. Lang's phrase, more easily "squared"; and it was as an 
intercessor with her more judicial Son that she was generally 
welcomed. But it is an unscientific use of the term to call this 
development "degeneration." 

That term may indeed be fitly applied to the process whereby a 
once imageless conception of any God is made fixedly concrete 
through the use of images ; or a multiplication of images and 
pictures positively destroys in a large population the faculty of 
thinking reasonably about religion at all. 1 In some such fashion, 
indeed, degeneration is always going on alongside of progress. In 
the higher civilizations, again, degeneration is endemic in so far as 
bad life-conditions are always creating a larger area of low culture 
around centres of high culture. In both kinds of case alike, how- 
ever, there occurs something that Mr. Lang's theory takes no note 
of — to wit, a recoil from the vulgar conception towards a higher, not 
before generally possessed. Such a law is perhaps not without its 
comforting side. In any case, it is the fact that (l) a God becomes 
relatively "high," and positively less unethical, by the very process 
of introducing another God between him and the worshipper ; and 
(2) that the obtrusion of a crude belief or a crude art on superior 
intelligences makes for them a stepping-stone to a higher art and a 
less gross credence. As regards art, we see the process every day. 
A given convention is contentedly acquiesced in by the majority ; 
but there comes along the man of genius, of finer sensibility, or of 
more various culture, who revolts from the vulgar model, insists 
that it does not stand for the truth which he perceives, and proceeds 
to create something — be it a novel, a picture, a statue, or a poem — 
which better satisfies his tastes or perceptions. After a time, 
perhaps after he has been stoned or starved, this better model is 
accepted by many, till it in turn becomes a convention repellent to 
a later genius ; and again there is innovation. 

The process is however complicated at all times by the rule of 

1 Cp. the author's'/STiorf History of Freetlwught, i, 95. 


the environment, which determines whether the majority can or 
can not rise to the finer presentment, or whether genius itself can 
evolve to good purpose. And this is the specially important con- 
sideration in the case of religion. At all stages, there is reason to 
think, some minds have risen in some measure above the prevalent 
ideas, and have sought to correct these ; and their success is in the 
ratio of the total facilities, relatively to the effort made. Thus we 
find Hebrew prophets (haply, however, interpolated by later hands) 
rebuking the ethic of their fellow-monotheists and fellow-prophets ; 
Pindar, as aforesaid, Bowdlerizing the current myths ; Homer and 
the Vedas leaving the ugliest out ; Egyptian and Brahman priests 
evolving an esoteric system which turns to symbols the barbarisms 
of the popular cult. But the socio-political conditions determine 
the extent to which the higher doctrine is assimilated ; and thus far 
in human history the general law is one of the prevalence of crude 
and ignorant beliefs, or of their retention alongside of the more 
refined : the broad reason being that the mass of the people have 
always been more or less crudely ignorant, either because the 
majority are always of low mental calibre, or because they are 
always uncultured, or from both causes concurrently. 

All the while, however, there operates the general law above 
stated, that the simple removal of a God by one or more degrees 
from direct worship, through the interposition of another God 
between him and the worshipper, has pro tanto an elevating effect 
on the older God. The process, which Mr. Lang obscures by his 
polemic, is really very simple. To put it plainly, a God becomes 
more respectable precisely as he gets less to do. It stands to reason 
that when he was the near God, meddling in everything, he was so 
much the more obviously made in the image of his worshippers, 
more " mythological," so to say, in the sense of having so many 
more stories told about him. And instead of the adoption of inter- 
mediate Spirits or lower Gods being a process of moral declension, 
as Mr. Lang contends, it may at times be resorted to for the very 
purpose of refining and exalting the greater God. Thus we know 
that in the Samaritan Pentateuch later writers deliberately substi- 
tuted " the Angel of the Lord," for "the Lord," 1 on the obvious 
ground that Yahweh's dignity was lowered by making him appear 
in human guise on parochial errands. But the law has a more 
general bearing. Zeus in the Greek mythology acquires his relative 
moral elevation precisely through his hierarchical elevation. To 

1 Cp. the partial substitution of the angel for the deity in Exod. ii. 


start with, save for the few better minds, he was not a ' high " God, 
even if for some tribes he was the One God. The ' low" myths 
about him, which we are told have no connection with the alleged 
high primordial religion, are the really old data in the matter. It is 
even maintained that his cult grew out of various animal worships, 
in which totemic Gods, as the swan and the bull, had tales told of 
them which survive in the lore of Olympus. 1 It is when he is put 
over others in the position of Supreme Judge, overruling the more 
wayward actions of the younger Olympians, that he begins to lend 
himself to higher ethical ideals ; and the highest of all were those 
formed when the God-idea became so remote as to elude form, and 
was pantheistically resolved into the idea of a universal Mind, of 
which men's minds were portions. 

If, on the other hand, a God is made relatively " high " by the 
simple process of being made to overshadow or absorb similar 
deities — as seems to have happened in the case of Apollo, who is 
made the father of so many local Sun-Gods, and thus becomes the 
Sun-God for Hellas in general — there is in the terms of the case no 
proportional ethical elevation, since he has only the more stories 
told about him, and meddles all the more in human affairs. He 
may be theoretically elevated by a concurrent improvement in 
general ethical thought ; but this is not in virtue of his increased 
importance ; and his continued direct activity will always involve 
a counter-tendency which in part makes the higher ethic nugatory. 

As regards, now, the relation of Christianity to Judaism, it is 
easy to see that Mr. Lang's theory, supposing it to be applied 
against his will, would still break down. The One God of the Jews, 
as generally envisaged, was not "high" at the last any more than 
at the first. The intervening host of angels and demons, indeed, 
partly saved his dignity and bore the heavier burdens of the popular 
superstition ; but inasmuch as Yahweh remained, despite the higher 
ideas of some prophets or their interpolators, a tribal and sacerdotal 
God, he entailed a tribal and sacerdotal ethic ; and though doubtless 
a few, helped by Greek thought, speculated at a higher level, the 
Almighty who " plays with Leviathan " and sits as Chief Rabbi in 
Heaven is not a relatively imposing conception. The first Christists 
accordingly were but doing what the myth-making and religion- 
making mind has always done in its innovations — seeking to frame 
a rather more satisfying ethic. This holds good both of the Judaic 
Jesuits who demanded " works " and the Pauline party who insisted 

1 S. Reinach, Orpheits, ed. 1909, pp. 119-20. But see above, p. 7, note. 


on faith. The latter did in point of fact adopt a common and 
ancient Gentile conception — that of a sacrificed Divine Man ; but 
they gradually surrounded this conception, which they could not 
collectively transcend, with a variety of ethical ideas of which some, 
the contribution of the saner or finer minds, did transcend the 
central dogma. 

Beginning as a Jewish variation, the cult was developed on a 
broader ethnic basis, its ethic being pro tanto widened. But in the 
process it became more and more sacerdotal ; and when sacer- 
dotalism had come into complete possession the ethic remained 
fixed in its original crudity, with many popular myths superadded. 
Thus it could come about that the spectacle of its crudity and its 
anthropomorphism could in turn, after ages of social vicissitude, 
act as a stimulus to the Jewish mind in a new environment, and as 
a point of repulsion for the new cult of Islam ; which movements 
between them, with the help of recovered Greek thought, thus 
reached a higher ethic and a higher level of cosmic speculation. 

Meanwhile, despite Dupuis and Volney and Strauss and the 
plain bearings of the latest mythological researches, the European 
economic system serves to maintain in popular credit the mythology 
of Christism. Some even who see the untenability of the original 
ethic seem unable to realize its mythic origin ; some who, with 
Strauss, detect some of the myths, continue to see history in others. 
Hence the need, in the name at once of mythological science and of 
social rectitude, to apply to Gospel myths the tests of comparative 
method, and the cues of accumulated mythological knowledge. 

§ 3. The Psychological Besistance to Evidence. 

Even when the outworks thrown up for Christianity by an 
imperfect mythology and by economic conditions are removed, 
however, there will still remain to be met the obstinate resistance 
offered to every scientific view of religious origins by the forces in 
the camp — to wit, the enlisted affections, the emotional habit, the 
acquired code of judgments. So obvious is the play of such bias in 
every great issue that it should be one of the first duties of every 
educated man to challenge his own case at every serious encounter 
with an innovating doctrine. Most men can now see how purely 
passional, how unjudicial, how prejudiced, has been the resistance 
offered by orthodoxy to every great scientific advance in succession 
— to the truths of the roundness and motion of the earth, to the 
principles of geology, to the principles of Darwin. Yet in every 


one of these cases, we may be sure, men thought they saw common- 
sense in the old notion and extravagance in the new : so easy is it 
to find the rational in the habitual, so hard to consent to see by new 
light. Hardest of all does it seem to be where the habit has been 
bound up with worship and chronic religious emotion. 

We have seen how Mr. Lang fails to find offence or absurdity 
in the most offensive and absurd " anecdotes " when they occur in 
the Pentateuch. He sees at a glance the nonsense and indecency 
of the myths of savages, even after he has taken to crediting them 
with " selfless " ethics ; and, as he is aware, 1 they can equally 
see absurdity, if not indecency, in the myths on which he was 
brought up ; whereupon he inadequately observes that savages and 
civilized men have different standards of credulity." That is but a 
partial explanation. Many civilized men hold with the savages that 
the Christian myths are preposterous ; and some savages can see 
with civilized men that the savage myths are so. The determining 
condition of vision is simply freedom, original or acquired, from 
prepossession in a given direction. But the prepossession, while it 
lasts, is one of the most blinding of influences. And if any inquirer 
finds it difficult to understand how modern investigators can make 
fish of one myth and fowl of another, can recognize unreason and 
fiction in other men's faiths and unconsciously run their heads 
against them in their own, he should firstly pay heed to the pheno- 
mena of inconsistency and self-contradiction which so abound in 
argumentative literature even where writers are not mastered by the 
special bias of a creed or prejudice or conservative sentiment, but are 
merely giving play to the different currents of sentiment set up in 
them by detached impressions which they do not seek or do not 
contrive to co-ordinate. 

As showing how far such incoherence may go in the case of a 
writer of repute, and how far it may avail to confuse historical 
science, it may serve to compare two sets of mutually- annihilative 
dicta from the second and twelfth chapters of Mommsen's History 
of Borne, with the preliminary assurance that the chapters not only 
make no attempt at a synthesis of the contradictions, but exhibit no 
suspicion that they contain any contradictions at all. I quote from 
the 1868 edition of Dickson's translation : — 

"But, on the other hand, the Latin "At the very core of the Latin reli- 
religion sank into a singular insipidity gion there lay that profound moral 
and dulness, and early became shrivel- impulse which leads men to bring 

1 Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. i, 91. 


led into an anxious and dreary round of earthly guilt and earthly punishment 
ceremonies. The God of the Italian into relation with the world of the 
was, as we have already said, above all Gods" (ch. 12 : i, 192). 
things an instrument for helping him 
to the attainment of very substantial 
earthly objects " (i, 193; ch. 12). 

"But the forms of the Roman " The Latin religion, like every other, 

faith remained at, or sank to, a singu- had its origin in the effort to fathom 
larly low level of conception and of the abyss of thought ; it is only to a 
insight " (i, 181). superficial view, which is deceived as to 

"Of such notions, the products of the depth of the stream because it is 
outward abstraction — of the homeliest clear, that its transparent spirit-world 
simplicity, sometimes venerable, some- can appear to be shallow" (i, 197). 
times ridiculous — Roman theology was 
in substance made up" (i, 184). 

"It [Roman religion] was unable to 
excite that mysterious awe after which 
the human heart has always had a long- 
ing" (i, 184). 

" This indifference to ideal elements " Throughout the whole of nature he 
in the Roman religion was accompanied [the Roman] adored the spiritual and 
by a practical and utilitarian tendency " the universal " (i, 29 ; ch. 2). 
(i, 185). 

"The Latin worship was grounded 
mainly on man's enjoyment of earthly 
pleasures " (i, 191). 

" The language of the Roman Gods " Comparatively slight traces are to 
was wholly confined to Yea and Nay, be found among the Romans of belief 
or at the most to the making their will in ghosts, fear of enchantments, or 
known by the method of casting lots, dealing in mysteries. Oracles and 

The Romans made efforts, even at prophecy never acquired the impor- 

an early period, to treasure up such tance in Italy which they obtained in 
counsels [Greek oracles] , and copies of Greece, and never were able to exercise 

the leaves of the Cumaean Sibyl a serious control over public or private 

were accordingly a highly -valued gift, life " (i, 193). 

For the reading and interpretation 

of the fortune-telling book a special 

college was instituted in early times. 

Romans in search of advice early 

betook themselves to the Delphic Apollo 
himself" (i, 198-9). 

It is given to few, certainly, to dogmatize so chaotically as does 
Mommsen ; but if he can contrive to think thus incoherently on a 
question on which he has no master-passion to blind him, as he had 
in his utterances on the Celtic races and on French civilization ; if 
he can in different moods see spiritual profundity and mere mechani- 
cal externality in one and the same set of religious phenomena, it 


becomes at least much less surprising that men should see in such 
different lights phenomena which, though cognate and similar, are at 
least different in particulars and in their circumstances, as well as in 
degree of familiarity. The believing Christian who for the first time 
is told, however guardedly, that his creed is historically on all fours 
with those of its age, and that its prodigies are but myths and false 
marvels like those of Paganism, is sure to be sincerely scandalized. 
To him the two sets of phenomena are wholly disparate, because his 
feelings about them have always been so. And it finally depends on 
his intellectual qualities, his opportunities, his studies, and his inter- 
locutors, whether he ever gets beyond framing arguments which 
merely follow the beck of his prejudice. 

With the wrecks of such arguments the path of discussion has 
been more and more thickly strewn for the last two hundred years. 
But as many still see in the wrecks nothing but good building 
material, it may be well to scrutinize closely a few arguments which 
were earnestly or adroitly put together when Strauss seventy years 
ago gave a new reverberation to the doctrine that Christian 
supernaturalism is part of the subject-matter of mythology. As 
had been sought to be done in the eighteenth century in the 
case of miracles, men strove to show that what were called 
myths in the gospels had nothing in common with the admitted 
myths of Paganism ; and that on the other hand, despite its 
supernaturalism, the life of the Founder was as credible as that of 
Julius Caesar. 

On the first head the line of argument was very much that of 
Mr. Lang, only more industriously developed, and with of course 
more resort to the stock "bluffs" of Christian Evidence. One 
German inquirer put together a list of the Mohammedan myths 
about Jesus, and claimed to show that all had an extravagant or 
frivolous or ill-finished character that was totally absent from the 
gospel narrative. In the gospels, it is claimed, there are no 
" hyperbolical delineations." " There we find no miracle which is 
not duly called for by the circumstances — none that serves merely 
frivolous interests, or that violates the rules of propriety." " Where 
the supernatural does interpose, it presents itself in a manner so 
unconstrained, and so suitable to the aim of the whole, that the only 
thing that would have created surprise would have been the absence of 
this element." 1 

Place beside these typical assertions, of which even the last is 

1 Part vii. of Voices of tlxe Church in Reply to Dr. Strauss, 1845, pp. 355-9. 


only a delightful development of a common implication, a few of the 
actual Gospel miracles. 

1. The wholesale 1 turning of water into wine at a feast at which 
a presumable sufficiency of wine had been already consumed. 

2. The miraculous draught of fishes. 

3. The catching of the fish with the coin in its mouth to pay 
the tribute ; taken in connection with the statement that Judas 
normally carried a stock of money for the group. 

4. The story that 5,000 persons went into the wilderness with 
twelve (or more) baskets, containing only five (or seven) loaves and 
two (or a few) fishes, and that the Founder multiplied that food for 
the host till there was superfluity enough to fill exactly twelve 

5. The instantaneous cure of a malady of long standing through 
a touch on the hem of the Messiah's garment. 

6. The rebuking of the wind, with its instant cessation, and the 
immediate " great calm " on a tempest- tossed sea. 

7. The instantaneous removal of leprosy. 

8. The instant restoration of maimed limbs. 

9. The walking on the waves. 

10. The rebuking and expulsion of the "devil" in epileptic 

Nothing save a prepossession approaching to hebetude can 
obscure the fact that these are just "irrational," that is, ignorant 
myths of the ordinary Oriental sort, devoid of " propriety," for 
instructed people, in the completest degree. The so-called Moham- 
medan myths, which are really flotsam from early Christian lore, 
set reasonable and even touching thoughts alongside of absurd 
narratives : the gospels do the same, yielding a much larger pro- 
portion of sane matter simply because they represent the literary 
travail of several generations and the selected thoughts of many 
more, all to some extent edited by men bent on making a Christist 
movement ; whereas the Mohammedan myths about Jesus are mere 
random survivals. Yet if Christians had found in their gospels the 
story that when the disciples complained of the smell of the dead 
dog, Jesus answered " Ah ! how beautifully white are the dog's 
teeth," with the added explanation, they would have been well 
pleased; 2 and if they could without scandal accept it in exchange 

1 The quantity of the wine greatly impressed Strauss, as it did previous German critics. 
It figures out at over a thousand imperial pints. 

2 Let the "apocryphal" story but be told in the archaic style of the English versions of 
ttie Gospels, and the effect will be tolerable enough. As thus :— " And as Jesus came from 
that city with his disciples there lay before them on the way a dead dog. And the disciples 


for the inept story of the cursing of the fig-tree, many would 
promptly and gladly make the transaction. 

Again, when the apologist claims it to be a specialty of gospel 
narrative to contain simple and natural episodes, he does but exclude 
from his survey one-half of the literature of mythology. 

" That the great Messiah sat down weary at Jacob's well, that he was over- 
come with sleep in the boat on the lake, that in Gethsemane and on the cross 
he gave utterance to the deepest feelings of human weakness — all this would 
as little have appeared in a mytho-poetical picture of his life, as the honest 
and sober-minded confessions of their own conduct which the evangelists so 
artlessly embody in their narratives." 1 

Such are the devices of " foredeeming." In not a single case 
does any gospel ascribe any act whatever to its own writer, or 
indicate who its writer was : the apologist has but adduced myth 
to defend myth. As for the picture of the God resting by the well, 
or sleeping in the boat, it can be paralleled on the side of artlessness 
in a dozen of the most familiar myths of Hellas, and in as many of 
Buddhism. Can the apologist ever have read of " outworn Demeter, 
searching for Persephone"? " By the wayside she sat her down, 
sore in heart, at the Maiden Well, where the townsfolks drew their 
water, in the shadow where overhead grew a thicket of olives. In 
her guise she was like unto an aged woman who is bereft of child- 
bearing and the gifts of garland-loving Aphrodite They knew 

her not: the Gods are hard for men to discern* " 2 This of 

Great Demeter, of the many temples and the glorious name. 

Met thus at every turn by the challenged parallel, the customary 
apologist usually ends by insisting that the Gospels stand out from 
all other sacred histories in respect of their utter aloofness from the 
instinct of sex — that Jesus alone of the Gods of old is without the 
passion of the male for the female. But this again is a fallacious 
plea, for the entire literature of the early Christists is in the same 
way stamped with the character of an age in which Oriental 
asceticism has become the standard of sanctity ; and the new God 
is but specialized as Virgin Goddesses had been before him. 3 Apollo 
himself is acclaimed as hagnos, the chaste God ; and in Julian we 
see the now normally sophisticated consciousness of religious men 
prompting them to claim sexlessness for the old Gods and turn the 

were much offended with the smell thereof. And the Lord rebuked them and said. Nay, 
but see ye not the wondrous whiteness of the dog's teeth ? This spake he unto them that 
they should take heed to see the good in all the works of God, and that they should think 
not of the faults but of the righteous deeds of their brethren." 

1 Vol. cited, p. 357. 

2 Homeridian Hymn to Dimeter, Edgar's trans, slightly altered. 

3 I say nothing of the unpleasant problem raised by the wording of John xiii, 23, 


stories of their appetites to pure allegory. And the principle is 
dominant in Buddhism no less than in Christism. 

Even as the determined believer will not see charm or sobriety 
in any myth of the heathen, so will he look in the very face of 
puerility in his own myths and vow that it is surpassingly divine, 
nay, that prodigy is but a proof of foreknowledge. Thus does no 
less a teacher than Neander, in an English translation, dispose of 
the miracle of the fish with the stater in its mouth : — 

" He [Jesus] wrought no miracle in order to procure the necessary money, 
but told Peter to have recourse to his usual calling. Providence attached a 
peculiar blessing to his labours on this occasion ; and he found in the mouth 
of the first fish which he caught a coin, which had probably been sivallowed 
a short time before. 1 Christ's foreknowledge of the result constitutes, as 
before observed, the miraculous element in the transaction." 

As if supererogatory absurdity were not enough, the theologian must 
needs glose the narrative, in which Jesus actually tells Peter in 
advance that he will find the coin in the mouth of the first fish. 
The narrative (Mt. xvii, 27) does not even tell further of the fulfil- 
ment. If then the miracle here consists simply in the foreknow- 
ledge, it does so in every case in which Jesus says anything before 
a miracle is consummated. The formula is naught. 

But the extremity of Neander's bias is best illustrated by his 
handling of the miracle of Cana. Here he does not employ the 
foreknowledge" formula, but changes the venue: — 

" If we are to regard the author of that [the fourth] gospel as a man of 
Alexandrian culture, whose mind was imbued with the notions of the 
Gnostics, his selection, for the first miracle of Christ, of a transaction which 
from his peculiar point of view must have appeared utterly unworthy of the 
Saviour's dignity, is incomprehensible." 2 

It would be hard to be more arbitrary. The theorem of Strauss 8 
and others, that the fourth Gospel suggests Alexandrian or Greek 
culture and a Gnostic leaning, alleges its Gnosticism only so far 
forth as the Gospel can be shown to contain Gnostic thought. To 
reply that the Gnostic of Alexandria would have scouted the miracle 
of Cana is neither here nor there. Gnosticism had many mansions, 
and no modern is entitled to say that there were not thousands of 
the earlier Gnostics who would have accepted the miracle with 
reverence. Clement of Alexandria actually accepted and prized the 

1 Cp. Das Leben Jesu Christi, 4te Aufl. 1845, p. 508. The passage is thus translated in 
Voices of the Church, as before cited, p. 427. The fourth edition of the original says in 
conclusion only : " Der zuerst gefangene Fisch sollte so viel einbringen, da ein von ihm 
verschlungener Stater in ihm gefunden wurde." 

2 Das Leben Jesu Christi, p. 273, note. Voices of the Church, pp. 428-9. 

3 Das Leben Jesu,, 4te Ausg. i, Kap. vii, § 83, end. 


name of Gnostic ; and he never by a single word disparages the 
miracle. It is true that he never refers to it ; while he revels in the 
doctrine of the Logos ; and it might be argued on Neander's premiss 
that the water-and-wine story was an addition to the original 
perhaps made after Clement's time. But this view would of course 
be repudiated by Neander as reducing the miracle to myth once for 
all. His argument must remain that the story is to be held apostolic 
because it would scandalize an educated Alexandrian. How then 
came any educated Alexandrian ever to be an orthodox Christian ; 
and how came Clement to let the miracle pass ? 

The special pathos of the defence lies in the perception it betrays 
that the story is a scandal to the educated modern ; that the naif 
phrases " manifested his glory," " and his disciples believed on him," 
reveal a notion of divinity and Messiahship which puts the narrative 
outside the pale of tolerable testimony for a critical reader. The 
modern apologist who felt that " in the Gospel miracles the only 
thing that would have created surprise would have been the 
absence" of the supernatural, was clearly at the true primeval 
point of view ; but even he would have been hard put to it to show 
that the Christian tale is more dignified or more plausible than the 
repeatedly "attested" wine-miracle wrought annually in the Diony- 
sian temple of Andros in solemn manifestation of the might of the 
God over his special element. 1 As for the rest of us, when we 
collate the two prodigies, what can we say, as reasoning men, but 
that the gospel miracle is a parody of the Pagan ? 

At the next stage of the analysis there arises an issue that is 
equally set up by other episodes in the gospels : the question, 
namely, as to how such a story came first to be told. In the 
Dionysiak miracle, it will probably be allowed, we have a systematic 
priestly imposture, actually repeated year by year. It may have 
been done in pursuance of some old tale of the God turning water 
into wine ; or it may have been the priests' reduction to falsehood, 
ad captandum vulgus, of their subtler principle that the Sun-God 
turned water into wine in ripening the grape; 2 or the story may 
originally have been told by way of embodying that doctrine in a 
mythos. In any case, an esoteric idea presumably underlay the 
annual performance. In the Christian tale there is no such element 
left above ground ; and we are driven to ask whether the first 

1 See the treatise on The Gospel Myths in the present volume, Div. I, § 11. 

2 This was actually Augustine's gloss of the Christian miracle, except that in his view 
the God was miraculously and dramatically repeating what he did annually in the course 
of nature. In Joann. tract. 8, cited by Strauss. 


narrator of the Christian version was other than a wilful vendor of 
fiction. It is hard to see how we can answer favourably : certain 
as it is that any story once written down in an accepted gospel was 
sure to be believed, there must have been a beginning in somebody's 
deceit. And if on this we are met with the old formula that a wilful 
fiction is not a myth, we can but answer that the formula will have 
to be recast. For we really know nothing of the precise manner of 
origin of, say, the myth of Isis and Osiris. We only know that it 
was believed ; and as a belief it was for all practical purposes on all 
fours with the belief that Alexander was the son of Jupiter Ammon, 
and the belief that Jesus turned so many firkins of water into wine 
by divine volition. They were all traditionary forms of error ; and 
the business of mythology is to trace as far as may be how they 
came to be started and conserved. 

§ 4. The Problem of Non-Miraculous Myth. 

If the foregoing argument be substantially sound, it follows that 
the conception of " myth " should be allowed broadly to include not 
only stories of a supernatural cast told of divine personages, but 
many quasi-historical narratives which fall short of asserting down- 
right miracle ; and not only stories of that cast told about non- 
historical personages, but some told about historical personages. 
If, for instance, we find related of Julius Caesar and William the 
Conqueror and other great captains the tale of a stumble on landing 
in a new country, and a prompt pretence to lay hold of the land by 
way of reassuring superstitious soldiers, we are reasonably entitled 
to say that, though the thing may have happened once, it did not 
happen repeatedly ; just as we decide that the same witticism was 
not really uttered by Voltaire and Dr. Johnson and Talleyrand and 
Sidney Smith and Douglas Jerrold, though it has been ascribed to 
them all ; and that there were not four Christian nurses who 
respectively alleged that they had witnessed the death-beds of 
Voltaire, Eousseau, Thomas Paine, and Mr. Blank, and would not 
again see a freethinker die for all the wealth of the Indies. Knowing 
how the human mind manufactures these modern false coincidences, 
we rather count ourselves to have therein a sidelight on coincidences 
of a more sacrosanct sort in older times. When all is said, we have 
hardly any other way of divining how primeval men contrived to 
tell the same stories with innumerable variations of names and 
minor details. 

But here we must reckon with a logical difficulty of obvious 


importance, which has been somewhat adroitly turned to account 
by opponents of mythical interpretations of certain religious narra- 
tives. This difficulty is that there are very odd coincidences in 
history and literature : and that some perfectly attested modern 
biographies are found to chime in a queer way with certain myth- 
cycles of antiquity. The most familiar and the most striking of all 
such cases is the mock demonstration by Archbishop Whately that 
Napoleon=Apollo. Many a student must have been for a moment 
as much bewildered as entertained by the series of data — the birth 
in a Mediterranean island; the mother-name Laetitia=Leto= 
Latona ; the three sisters=the Graces ; the four brothers=the 
seasons ; the surname Bonaparte ; the hero's overrunning of 
Europe ; the two wives=Moon and Earth ,* the apparition in 
Egypt ; the turning-point of the hero's career in the land of winter, 
which undermines his power ; his defeat by the northern hosts ; his 
twelve marshals=the signs of the zodiac ; his passing away in the 
western hemisphere in the midst of the sea. It all seems at first 
sight uncommonly awkward for the solarists ; and a German 
theologian, in a sufficiently German manner, undertook similarly to 
confute Strauss by a work supposed to be produced by a Mexican 
mythologist in the year 2836, Das Leben Luther's kritisch bearbeitet, 
wherein Luther is shown to be a myth. 2 Here the effect is much 
less striking ; and the main hits are made over the mythical 
appearance of the name Wartburg, and the curious story that 
Luther was born while his mother was on a journey. In this case 
it begins to appear that the satire has come home to roost ; for the 
mythical interpretation of the gospel narrative does not rest on a 
theorem of the unreality of place-names ; and the question as to 
Luther's birth is troublous rather for the Protestant than for the 
mythologist. The story is very ill vouched : how came it to be 
told? Is it that an element of myth really did get into the 
biography even of Luther ? 

Once started, the rebuttal is simple enough. To begin with, the 
clever Archbishop's thesis proves far too much ; for Apollo is even 
in his opinion a mythical person ; and nine-tenths of the Napoleon 
data do not apply to Apollo at all ; though the Archbishop might 
have improved his case by noting that the Greek spelling is Apollon, 
and the modern Greek pronunciation nearly Apoleon=the Apollyon 
of Bunyan's allegory. Further, Apollo had not three sisters and four 
brothers ; and was not defeated by northern hosts ; and had a great 

1 Or, as a later writer would be apt to put it, with more point, Dawn and Twilight. 
3 See it reproduced in The Voices of the Church in Beply to Dr. Strauss. 


many wives and a great many sons ; and never led any hosts, though 
Dionysos did ; and — save in one stray myth — never died, even to rise 
again. And for the rest, we need but ask the Archbishop and his 
German emulator, as did the late Professor Baden Powell in the 
Essays and Beviews, whether they mean to suggest that there is 
nothing more miraculous in the life of Jesus than in the lives of 
Luther and Napoleon ? In fine, was not the Archbishop a little too 
clever for the safety of the creed ? 

It is only gradually that the average man learns to appreciate 
the logical recoil of such dialectic. His first impulse is invariably to 
laugh at the scientific theory which disturbs his complacent ignor- 
ance. He laughed at Copernicus, at Galileo, at telescopes, at micro- 
scopes, at Newton, at the geologists, at Darwin. For him the 
caricature which assails the new doctrine is always irresistibly 
triumphant. When Professor De Gubernatis, in 1873, delivered at 
Florence his lectures on Vedic Mythology, he found the average 
man still disposed to enjoy Whately and such skits on the mytho- 
logists as that published by Wackernagel in 1856, Die Himdchen von 
Bretzivil und von Bretten. But the skit passes, and the science 
evolves. For the man of science, as for others, ridicule, if not the 
test of truth, is a test, which may be usefully corrective. And in 
this, as in other matters, he laughs best who laughs last. 

We have but to restate the mythological argument in this 
connection to make clear its real strength. As thus : (l) Jesus is 
said to be born of a Virgin ; but not in the original version of the 
first gospel ; and not in the second ; and not in the fourth ; and not 
in any writing or by any mouth known to or credited by the writers 
of the Pauline epistles. Here we see how a myth may be super- 
imposed on a cult. As regards (2) the miracles, the Temptation, 
the Resurrection, the Ascension, they cannot possibly be solved by 
any record of a real career. (3) We come next to non-miraculous 
episodes which yet bear the mark of myth in that they are (a) 
duplicates of episodes in previous hero-myths, (b) not common to 
the four gospels, (c) like the miracles, visibly unknown to the 
Paulinists. Even Mr. Lang admits myth in the story of the 
exposure of the infant Moses. The Massacre of the Innocents falls 
by the same tests. (4) Finally comes the category of presumptively- 
fictitious utterances, of which there is a whole series, reducible to 
unreality on various grounds, as thus : — 

a. All alike are unknown to the writers of the Pauline epistles, 

and unemployed by the other epistle-writers. 

b. The Sermon on the Mount is further demonstrably a collection 


of written sayings, and has none of the characteristics of a 
real discourse. 

c. The "Come unto me" formula has no congruity whatever 

with the main body of the narrative ; and is intelligible 
only as a formula of the mysteries. 

d. Many of the parables are similarly impossible as " teachings." 

The disciples themselves are represented as needing explana- 
tions of parables (cp. Matt, xiii, 15-36) ; and at times Jesus 
is said to blame them bitterly, at others to be in the habit 
of explaining to them privately what the multitude cannot 
understand (Mark iv, 34, etc.). 

e. A multitude of absolute contradictions of narrative in the text 

prove unrestrained invention — e.g., Matt, xiii, 54-58 and 

Luke iv, 31-44 ; Matt, x, 5, 6, and xxi, 43 ; Matt, xii, 30 

and Luke ix, 50 ; Matt, xviii, 3 and xiii, 10-16 ; Matt, xviii, 

17, and verse 22. 1 

/. The decisive difference between the whole cast of the fourth 

gospel and that of the synoptics shows that invention was 

no less unrestrained as regards doctrine. Any man could 

set forth anything he would as the teaching of the 


g. Predictions such as those of the fall of Jerusalem are clearly 

written after the event. Other teachings were as easy to 


When any such body of reasons can be given for doubting a 

pagan narrative, it can to-day find no credence among instructed 

men. No scholar pretends to believe that all the speeches ostensibly 

reported in Livy and Thucydides were really delivered ; but though 

it is not recorded that any reports of Jesuine sayings existed in any 

form in Paul's time we are asked to believe that a multitude of 

Jesuine discourses delivered about the year 30 were accurately 

reproduced, without additions, forty or more years later ; and that 

documents to which during a century anybody might add, in an age 

of habitual forgery, are valid evidence. Clearly this is the merest 

fanaticism. All that can rationally be claimed is that a teacher or 

teachers named Jesus, or several differently named teachers called 

Messiahs, may have Messianically uttered some of these teachings 

at various periods, presumably after the writing of the Pauline 

epistles. 2 To make the whole mass the basis of a conception of a 

1 See a number of other instances cited in the author's Short History of Freethought, i, 

2 Cp. essay on "The Jesus Legend and the Myth of the Twelve Apostles," in the 
author's Studies in Beligious Fallacy. 


teaching Jesus before Paul, is to ignore all the usual principles of 
historical judgment. 

To put the case broadly, at the end as at the beginning : Primary 
myth is but one of the primary modes in which men are collectively 
deceived ; the habit of erroneous belief persists thus far in all stages 
of civilization ; and wherever the result is a widespread hallucination, 
transmitted from age to age through channels of custom and emotional 
credulity, we are dealing with the same kind of psychological problem, 
and should apply to it the same kind of tests. The beliefs that 
Demeter wandered over the wide-wayed earth seeking for Perse- 
phone ; that Isis searched mourning for the body of Osiris ; that 
Apollo shot arrows of pestilence in punishment among the Greeks ; 
that Athene miraculously succoured her worshippers ; that Perseus 
and Jesus and a hundred more were supernaturally conceived ; that 
Jesus and Dionysos and Osiris gave men new knowledge and 
happiness in virtue of Godhood ; that Tezcatlipoca and Yahweh 
were to be appeased by the eating, in reality or in symbol, of human 
flesh and blood ; that iEsculapius and Jesus raised the dead ; that 
Herakles and Dionysos and Jesus went down to Hades, and returned ; 
that Jesus and Mithra were buried in rock tombs and rose again ; 
and that the sacrifice of Jesus brought salvation to mankind as did 
the annual sacrifice of the God-victim of the Khonds — these beliefs 
were set up and cherished by the same faculties for fiction and fallacy 
as have conserved the beliefs about the Amazons, Arthur and the 
Bound Table, the primacy of the Pope, witchcraft, fairies, the 
medicinal value of charms, the couvade, the efficacy of prayer for 
rain, Jenny Geddes and her stool, Bruce's Cave, Wallace's Tree, 
Julian's saying " Thou hast conquered, O Galilean," the liquefaction 
of the blood of St. Januarius, the miracles of Lourdes, the miracles 
of mediums, Boer outrages, the shooting of the apple on the head of 
his child by William Tell, and the consequent establishment of the 
Swiss Confederation. 

The fortunes of the Tell myth may serve once for all to illustrate 
the fashion in which a fiction can even in a historical period find 
general acceptance ; and the time and effort required to dispossess 
such a belief by means even of the plainest evidence. As early as 
1598, a Swiss antiquary pronounced the story a fable ; and in 1760 
another, named Freudenberger, undertook to show its source, the 
episode being found in the Danish history of Saxo-Grammaticus, 
written centuries before the date assigned to Tell's exploit. It is 
said that Freudenberger was condemned to be burned alive for his 
pains ; but this looks like yet another myth. Periodically repeated 


by scholars, however, the exposure was obstinately resisted by 
learned Swiss historians on various untenable grounds down till 
the middle of the nineteenth century ; * and when the pressure of 
criticism at last became irresistible by men of education and 
capacity, when it was shown past question that the Confederation 
had been formally established a good many years before the date 
assigned to Tell, and that no trace of the Gessler episode occurs for 
generations after the time to which it is ascribed, an accomplished 
scholar is found in all good faith to contend that, while the apple 
story is plainly myth and Tell a non-historical person, there is some 
reason to believe that some disturbance occurred about the time in 
question 2 — as if the reservation of such a proposition counted for 
anything in such a connection. 

It would be strange if a set of myths round which centre the 
popular religious beliefs of Christendom were to be rectified more 
easily than the Swiss belief in Tell. The great majority of the 
Swiss people, indeed, probably believe devoutly in the Tell story to 
this day, so little do the studies and conclusions of scholars represent 
popular opinion in any age ; and those rationalists among ourselves 
who go about proclaiming that Christian supernaturalism, being 
detected, is " dead," do but proclaim their own immaturity. Do 
what we will, myriads of "educated" English people will continue 
for generations to believe that their deity is present in a consecrated 
wafer ; and the faith of myriads more in their remoter myths will 
continue proportionally vigorous. It remains for those who do care 
about reason and critical knowledge to pursue these ends faithfully 
notwithstanding, leaving popular opinion to develop as social and 
economic conditions may determine. The science of these condi- 
tions is indeed the most vital of all ; but the critical inquiry none 
the less must be followed up for its own sake; and our general 
survey may fitly end in a consideration of one of the problems that 
arise for the mythologist on the borderline of the religious resistance, 
being broached in the name not of orthodoxy but of historical science. 

§ 5. The Problem of Priority. 

It lies on the face of the foregoing argument that any one 
religion may influence any other with which it comes in contact ; 
that as Christism borrowed myths of all kinds from Paganism, so it 
may pass on myths to less developed systems. Hence a possibility 

1 E.g., Vieusseux, History of Switzerland, 1840, p. 47, note. 

2 Cp. the pamphlet of M. Bordier, Le Griitli et Guillaume Tell, Geneve et Bale, 1869. 


of dispute as to whether a given heathen myth discovered in post- 
Christian times is or is not borrowed from Christianity. Dr. Tylor 
has shown reason for believing that a deluge-myth was set agoing in 
Mexico by the early Spanish priests. It may be, then, that in 
earlier times Christianity was drawn upon here and there in the 
fashion formerly taken for granted by believers as regards all cases 
of coincidence between Christian and pagan narrative and practice. 

Obviously such problems are to be solved, if at all, in terms of 
a posteriori evidence and a priori plausibility. If the historical 
data leave a given case in doubt, we have to ask ourselves which 
way the psychological probabilities lie. It is easy to see why the 
Christists adopted the belief in the Virgin Birth and the solar birth- 
day ; and, on the other hand, to see how savages could acquire from 
missionaries a belief in a punitive deluge. But there are less simple 
cases, in which a variety of tests must be put as to the relative like- 
lihood of a given myth's passing from A to B or from B to A. And 
so great still is the effect of the so long unchallenged habit of 
treating Christianity as " absolute religion " that in the name even 
of scientific mythology there is a persistent tendency to look for 
imitations of Christianity in myths that had been held by inde- 
pendent scholarship to be prior to Christian propaganda. The 
theses of Professors Weber and Lorinser and others in regard to 
Krishnaism (discussed at length hereinafter) are typical. Putting 
these theses aside for detailed treatment, we may take up for illus- 
tration that maintained in recent years by H. Petersen, L. Wimmer, 
Professor Bugge, E. H. Meyer, and others, as to a Christian deriva- 
tion of the Scandinavian myth of Balder. It is not necessary to 
ask here whether or not any one of these writers is influenced by a 
desire to buttress Christianity : it is quite conceivable that all alike 
may be indifferent to any such result. The point is that they are 
apparently influenced by the old habit of treating the Christian 
system as positively non-mythical, and that their theses are always 
apt to be turned to the account of orthodox belief. 

There is a curious correspondence in the line of argument in the 
two cases mentioned. As concerning Krishna, so concerning Balder, 
we are told that " no certain traces are to be found of an actually 
existing cultus " of the God in early times ; the only evidence for 
the tvorship being late, though there is early evidence for the myth- 
name. 1 The position is, then, that a little-esteemed Scandinavian 

1 H.Petersen, Ueberden Qottesdienst des Nordens wahrend der Heidenzeit, Ger. trans. 
1882, p. 84 ; E. H. Meyer, Germanische Mythologie, p. 262, cited by W. Nicolson, Myth and 
Religion, Helsingf ors, 1892, p. 103. 


deity of old standing could be developed into a highly-esteemed one 
by grafting on his personality characteristics borrowed from Christism, 
and this in face of Ohristist opposition and propaganda. Professor 
Bugge's general argument is thus summarized : — 

"While the Balder myth includes in itself the most diverse elements 

the main element is Christian. Both in the Elder and the Younger Eddas 

the elements are Christian or partially Christian All this fairness and 

splendour [of Balder's complexion and character] in Professor Bugge's 
opinion is only a reflection of the Son of God, the White Christ as he has 

been named As Balder was depicted by an old Icelandic author as 

purest white in the colour of his body; so in legendary and medieval 

descriptions Christ is spoken of as fairest of body, and with golden yellow 

hair The blind Had [who threw at Balder the fatal mistletoe] is the 

blind Longinus who drove the spear into our Lord's side He concludes 

that the Balder myth has been influenced by these medieval Christian 

legends " [of Longinus slaying Christ, etc.] . Further, Professor Bugge 
suggests that Lucifer is the original of Loki ; that the swearing of the trees 
and plants, excepting the mistletoe, not to injure Balder, is derived from 
the Jewish anti-Christian Gospel of the Middle Ages, the Sepher Toldoth 
Jeschu, where the trees and bushes swear not to bear Jesus if he be crucified, 
but where Judas makes a cabbage-stump serve the purpose. And so on. 

Now, it is not disputed that Christian and classic ideas probably 
affected some of the later aspects of Scandinavian paganism. The 
rationalist Professor F. G. Bergmann, of Strasburg, in his treatise 
on the Gylfa Ginning in the Younger Edda, fully recognized a 
Christian modification of old Scandinavian myths, notably that 
of Loki. 2 So long ago, indeed, as 1728, the antiquarian Keysler 
argued for Christian and scholarly influence in the Voluspa Saga; 3 
and the thesis was sustained by Von Schlozer in 1773, and by 
Adelung in 1797 and later. Such views were overborne for a time 
by the enthusiasm and nationalism aroused by the Brothers Grimm ; 
but E. H. Meyer, an admirer of the latter, declares himself bound 
to confess that the earlier and less scholarly inquirers were right, 
and the learned Jacob Grimm wrong. Among recent students some 
amount of Christian contact before the composition of the Voluspa 
and other sagas is generally conceded.- Thus Professor Rhys holds 
that the "prophetic" form in which part of the story is preserved 
is "due to Christian and Biblical influence." 4 As regards the 
theological conceptions associated with Odin, again, Professor 
Muller suggested Christian influence a generation ago; 5 and Dr. 

1 By Mr. Nicolson, as cited, p. 104. 

2 La Fascination de Gulfi, 1861, p. 320. 

3 See E. H. Meyer, Voluspa: Bine Untersuclmng, 1889, pp. 1-8. Cp. H. Petersen, as 
cited, p. 114. 

4 Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom, 1888, p. 535. 

5 Chips from a German Workshop, 1867, ii, 195-6. 


Eydberg has shown that certain of the migration myths of the 
Heimskringla and the Younger Edda belong to the Christian period, 
and are the work of Latin scholars of the Middle Ages. 1 Dr. 
Vigfusson, again, sees a marked Christian colouring in the entire 
myth. 2 But that the main episode in the Balder saga should be an 
adaptation from an apocryphal Christian legend, and that Balder 
himself is an adaptation from the White Christ — this is a hypothesis 
too unplausible to pass without clear evidence. And the more Pro- 
fessor Bugge's theory is examined, the weaker do his evidences 
seem. Among his incidental conclusions are these : that the funeral 
pile of Balder is taken from that of Patroklos, in Homer ; and that 
the picture given of the God in Saxo-Grammaticus, which is older 
than that in the Edda, is derived from Achilles, as regards the item 
of Balder's consuming passion for Nanna. Thus we are to suppose 
that Balder was first shaped after a classical model, and later after 
a Christian ; and this on the score of some very remote or very 
normal parallels. 

In the hands of Professor Bugge's adherents, the theory is 
pushed still further. After being vigorously attacked by the German 
archaeologist Mullenhoff, 3 as by the Anglo- Scandinavian Professor 
George Stephens/ and with less emphasis by Dr. Eydberg, it was 
embraced by E. H. Meyer, Mullenhoff's most distinguished pupil, 
who contends in his elaborate treatise on the Voluspa that the 
Saga is a literary adaptation from some current Summa of Christian 
theology. 6 "Whereas Bugge had argued with comparative diffidence 
that the Balder and Loki story in the Voluspa Saga, heathen in 
basis, was worked up by a heathen poet, who had heard Christian 
and classical legends, gathered by the Vikings, E. H. Meyer decides 
confidently that the poem is rather the work of a Christian priest 
of the twelfth century belonging to one of the four theological 
schools set up in Iceland after its Christianization ; and that the 
whole is a literary mystification, 6 not a genuine reproduction of 
native myths at all. 

It must be said that such a proposition raises acute sociological 
difficulties. Unless the priest-poet of the twelfth century were a 

1 Teutonic Mythology, Eng. tr. 1889, i, 39, 65, etc. 

2 Corpus Poeticum Boreale, 1883, ii, 466. 

3 Deutsche Alter tumskunde, Bd. v, 1883. 

4 Professor Bugge's Studies in Northern Mythology shortly examined, 1883, pp. 326-345. 

5 See also his Mythologie der Germanen, 1903, p. 454 sq. 

6 Mr. Nicolson (as cited, p. 130) so summarizes Meyer as to make him seem to hold that 
the saga-poet had a Christian purpose. Meyer really contends that the poem is not a 
"tendency" writing at all, being unfitted by its Christian ideas to serve Paganism, and by 
its pagan terminology to serve Christianity {Voluspa, p. 267. Cp. p. 294). Still he speaks 
of the "entirely Christianized (ganz verchristlichten) Balder and Hoder" (p. 220), and 
finally designates the poem a Summa Christlicher Theologie (end). 


highly-evolved skeptic, he must have been either a Christian or a 
Pagan. Now, the existence of an impartial artistic skepticism, as 
distinct from simple unbelief, in such an environment at that period, 
is a greater improbability than that any of the aspects of the saga 
should be pagan work. " How," asks Dr. Meyer, pointing to the 
conclusion of the poem, in which triumph is ascribed only to Balder 
and Hoder and " insignificant beings such as Hoenir " — " how could 
a real heathen poet have the heart to deny the new glory to his old 
Gods Odin, Thor, and Frey, and in their place bring in other younger 
Gods, who had no importance in the cultus?" 1 This begs the 
question, to begin with, as to what any one "heathen " poet would 
want to do. Given a special devotion to Balder, might not a Balder- 
worshipper desire to raise the new cult on the ruins of the old ? 
But Dr. Meyer's challenge further recoils upon himself. Assume 
that the poet was a believing Christian priest : was ever such a one 
known to lend new literary attractions to the story of a heathen 
God, and so to give heathenism the greater glory ? The thesis is 
really exorbitant : Dr. Meyer's conception of such a " mystification," 
such a " Ratselgedicht," on the part of a medieval Icelandic priest, 
is but a substitution of a great difficulty for a small. It is one thing 
to grant that the slain and beloved Balder of the poetic Edda is a 
marked aesthetic advance on the Balder of Saxo's "history": it is 
another thing to explain both the mythical and the literary develop- 
ment in the fashion under notice. 

And here, once more, there is to be charged on the innovating 
theorists a lack of comprehensiveness of survey. With all his 
learning, Dr. Meyer takes no account of the Celtic parallels to the 
Balder myth. Now, as Professor Rhys has shown, just as there is 
a plausible mythic equation, Gwydion = Woden = Indra, 2 there is a 
whole group of parallels between the Celtic Cuchulainn and Balder, 
besides a number of possible Celtic originals or parallels for the 
name and character of Loki. 3 In Professor Rhys's opinion such 
parallels, so far as they may indicate identities, stand for the body 
of myth common to the Aryan peoples before their divergence. 
But against this view there stands the difficulty that Balder does 
not figure at all prominently in the old Scandinavian worship — a 
difficulty which, as we shall see, arises in the same fashion in the 
case of Krishna, and there gives rise to a similar dispute. 4 So far 
as names of persons and places show, the chief God of Scandinavian 

1 Mythol. der Germanen, 1903, p. 466. 

2 Celtic Heathendom, as cited, pp. 282-304. 3 Id. pp. 538-542. 
4 H. Petersen, as cited, p. 84 ; E. H. Meyer, Mythologie der Germanen, p. 42. 


paganism was Thor; 1 Odin's supremacy and Balder's prestige being 
alike apparently late literary developments. 2 Freyr, too, seems to 
have been the Sun-God alongside of Thor ; 3 and, again, Heimdal in the 
Edda has many of Balder's characteristics ; 4 just as, by the common 
consent of Holtzmann, Bergmann, and Eydberg, the figure of 
Harbard in the sagas is identical with that of Loki. 5 For Dr. 
Meyer, the solution in every case is imitation of Christianity : that 
is to say, the saga-poet or poets created a whole series of new 
imaginary figures, duplicating one or two figures in the Christian 
system. Here again we have blank unverisimilitude. As hitherto 
understood, myths were never made in that fashion. Far less 
unlikely is the assumption that, to begin with, there were pagan 
mythical personages with some of the characteristics under notice, 
and that these were poetically developed. 

So far as such a problem can be speculated upon from the 
outside, the solution seems to lie obviously through the theory of 
Professors Vigfusson and Powell as to the general development of 
Icelandic literature. 6 That theory is that the germinal force which 
wrought the remarkable poetic evolution in Iceland was contact with 
the Celtic 7 literary culture of Western Britain and Ireland — a culture 
resulting from the long-standing Celtic institution of bardism, 
originally lacking or left rudimentary in Scandinavia. Such a 
contact could account for many of the mythic parallels noted by 
Professor Ehys. 8 Not that the negative evidence against the Balder 
cultus is conclusive. A Balder myth may conceivably have flourished 
among a stratum of the northern population that had been conquered 
by the Thor worshippers, just as a Krishna myth was probably 
ancient among the pre- Aryan Dravidians in India ; for though 
Balder names are scarce in Scandinavia they appear to survive in 
Germany. 9 And when such parallels exist as Eydberg has shown 
between the northern mythology and that of the Vedas, we are not 
entitled in advance to disallow a single figure in the former as a 

1 Petersen, pp. 21-71, 76, 83, 87, 90, 94,111, etc.; Nicolson, p. 101. 

2 As to the original cast of Odin, see a very careful essay, The Cult of Othin, by H. M. 
Chadwick (Clay & Sons, 1899). 

3 Petersen, pp. 74-5. Professor Stephens writes: "Even as to Frigg herself, it is certain 
not only that Frigg and Froya were originally one deity, but also that this Goddess was 
at first one and the same with the God Froy or Frey, the English Frea " (Professor Bugge's 
Studies Examined, p. 314). 

4 Cp. Eydberg, Teutonic Mythology, Eng. tr. pp. 90-97; 402-7. 

5 Id. p. 652. 

6 See the article on Icelandic Literature in the Encyclopcedia Britannica. 

7 As to Slavonic influence on Scandinavian mythology, see Bergmann, Le Message de 
Skirnir et les Bits de Grimnir, 1871, Introd. 

8 A Celtic derivation of the Balder myth is suggested by N. M. Petersen, Nordisk 
Mythologi, pp. 271-282, cited by Nicolson, p. 101. 

9 Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, Eng. tr. ch. xi. On the possible significations of the 
name see also Simrock, Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie, 6te Aufl. 1887, § 36, p. 89 sq. 
Cp. Meyer as cited by Nicolson, pp. 133-4, 


medieval copy from Christianity. But inasmuch as the aesthetic 
refinement of the Balder story is one of the main grounds of the 
latter theory, 1 the play of the Celtic literary influence is an adequate 
explanation, whereas the theory of a literary mystification, a Batsel- 
gedicht, is a flout to all psychological probability. 

The Celtic influence, doubtless, might carry with it concrete 
Christian elements. But against the whole theory of Christian 
derivation there stands the difficulty that the alleged coincidences 
are so remote. Dr. Meyer's phrase, " Summa of Christian theology," 
is a misnomer : what his evidence really suggests is an imitation not 
of the Christian theology but of the cosmology and the mythology. 
The theology is present only in the parallels to the apocalyptic lore 
of the Dark Ages, and in respect of the alleged connection of the 
admittedly ancient myth of the hiding of Odin's eye in the fountain 
with ecclesiastical views of God as an Eye, Christ as a fountain, and 
the Holy Spirit as the water flowing therefrom. But how could 
such a manipulation promote an acceptance of the Christian creed ? 
Christianity is in no way advantaged by the poem. There is no 
sacrifice, as there is no cross. Balder's death is not the salvation 
of men but a sad catastrophe among the Gods ; and the sorrow that 
prevails until his return connects far more obviously with the 
mourning cults of the pre-Christian Southern world than with the 
Christist. Eead as a sun-myth, the story is tolerably transparent ; 
as an imitation of Christian theology it is truly a Bdtselgedicht. As 
Professor Ehys has pointed out, the detail that Balder cannot return 
until all nature weeps for his loss is a very close notation of the fact 
that the sun " returns " in strength only when the winter frosts thaw 
in the spring, bedewing the whole earth. As regards the descent 
into hell," which Professor Bugge thinks must be of Christian 
derivation, it is part of the normal sun-myth, 3 and is obscurely 
present even in that of Apollo. Now, Professor Bugge thinks that 
the South-Teutonic God-name Fol, which Dr. Rydberg and Dr. Meyer 
connect with Fair and Balder, is taken from the name Apollo : why 
then should not classic sun-myths also have reached the North, 
supposing them not to have been primary ? Why, again, should not 
Loki be traced — if to any remote source — to the Egyptian Set, who 

1 Cp. Nicolson, as cited, p. 139. 

2 For an interpretation see F. G. Bergmann, La Fascination de Oulfi {Oylfa Ginning), 
1861, p. 327 sq. 

3 See hereinafter, Christ and Krishna, § 16. 

4 Citations by Nicolson, pp. 120-1. Cp. Rydberg, p. 464; Meyer, Myth, der Germ., p. 32. 

5 In the ancient description of the temple of Upsala by Adam of Bremen the figure of 
the God Freyr is said to be represented cum ingenti priapo. This, like the other statues, 
suggests an image imported from the south. Cp. H. Petersen, as cited, p. 82, and Grimm, 
Teutonic Mythology, Eng. tr. 1882, i, 104-119. 


compasses the death of Osiris, and is duly punished therefor, rather 
than to Lucifer, who plays no such part? And, seeing that the 
movable Eye of Odin, hidden in the fountain, connects much less 
obviously with Christian theology than with the wonder-working 
eye of Ra, from the tears of which issued mankind ;* seeing also that 
the old Egyptian race is held to be an offshoot from the Aryan, 2 why 
should not the Voluspa myth in that regard pass for non-Christian ? 3 
Such an item as Balder's funeral pyre, we have seen, Professor 
Bugge holds to have been suggested by the transmitted story of 
Patroklos and Achilles, this though the pyre is specifically northern. 
But what of the pyre of the Sun-God Herakles; 4 and what of the 
primary phenomenon of sunset, which probably gave the motive? 
Bugge's theory is that the Christian matter in the myth came 
through the wandering Vikings. Before even the Vikings, however, 
Teutons had reached the Graeco-Roman world ; and thereby hangs 
the question whether northern myths may not thus at different 
times have had an entrance into the lore of the south. All the 
while, Professor Bugge has never asked the obvious questions, 
Whence came the late cabbage-stalk story in the Sepher Toldoth 
Jeschu ? and How came the myth of the blind Longinus into 
Christian lore ? Parts of the Sepher are in all probability of late 
medieval origin. As regards the other myth, the name Longinus 
may very well be evolved from the spear, longche, of John xix, 34 ; 
but the soldier does not become blind in any legend before the 
ninth century. 5 How did that myth originate? It is quite con- 
ceivable that the medieval Christians should adopt the idea that the 
soldier who thrust the spear was blind, and had to be guided to the 
act by others ; but on this view the hint had to be given them. 
Now, though Dr. Rydberg holds that Had or Hoder in the primary 
form of the Scandinavian myth had not been blind, 6 it is very 
credible, on mythological grounds, that the Sun-God should be 
slain by a blind brother=the Darkness or the Winter ; and as the 
northern story turns in the later form upon the magical character of 
the mistletoe, we are almost driven to conclude that there was a 

1 Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Beligion, Eng. tr. p. 28 sq. 

2 Tiele, Hist, of the Egypt. Belig., Eng. tr. 1882, p. 12 ; Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, 
2nd ed., p. 54. 

3 Canon MacCullocb, wbo bas seen fit to allege that tbis essay denies tbe possibility of 
Christian influences in non-Christian mythology, notes that the Persian myth of the 
bridge which the righteous cross into Paradise, while the wicked fall off into realms of 
torment, "is also found among the Scandinavians," and adds : " Perhaps the two concep- 
tions had a common source in some ancient Aryan myth of the world beyond the grave " 
(Religion, p. 155). 

4 Robertson Smith, Beligion of the Semites, p. 353; and O. Muller, as there cited. 

5 Cp. Professor G. Stephens, Bugge's Studies on Northern Mythology, 1883, as cited, and 
Nicolson, p. 105. 

6 Teutonic Mythology, Eng. tr. i, 653, note. 


sun-slaying myth of some sort to start with. Why else should the 
mistletoe have been introduced? 1 It does not follow that the 
Christians got their idea from the Balder story as we now have it ; 
but the obvious presumption is that a pagan myth preceded theirs ; 
and such a myth may have been current among the Irish Celts, 
who had contacts alike with northern paganism and southern 
Christianity. In this way, too, might be explained the entrance of 
the mistletoe into the northern myth. In its earlier form, the 
death-dealing weapon is the sword Mistiltein. 2 This would at once 
suggest the mistletoe ; but then the mistletoe is unknown in Iceland 
and in Sweden. 3 A Celto-Britannic origin would seem to be the 

Again, when Professor Bugge seeks a Christian origin for the 
weeping of the Mother-Goddess Frigg over the slain Balder, he 
gives a fair mark for the derision of Professor Stephens. 4 As well 
might he argue that the Mabon Mab Modron ("the boy, son of the 
Matron"), and his mother, identified with the Sun-God Grannos 
and Sirona, 5 are borrowed from the Christian Madonna and Child. 
But, common-sense apart, it should be noted that in the pre- 
Christian cults of Attis, Adonis, and Osiris there are similar pheno- 
mena, which do account for the Christian narrative. So, finally, 
with the idea that Christ was fair-haired. Whence came it ? Con- 
ceivably from golden-haired Apollo ; but then why should not the 
hyperborean Balder, Sun-God of a fair-haired race, be as fair as the 
Greek Sun-God Apollo, whose cult was fabled to have come from 
the hyperboreans? 6 Agni in the Rig- Veda is white, and drives 
white horses ; and Professor Rydberg finds his traits reproduced in 
Heimdal. 7 Why then seek a medieval source for the whiteness of 
Balder? And if Balder is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning Lord, 8 
why are we to assume that it was never applied to a Teutonic God 
before Jesus, when we know that the title Lord was given to many 
pre-Christian Gods, and that it is the probable original meaning of 
the Scandinavian God-name Freyr? 9 Above all, why should the 
consuming love of the Sun-God for Nanna be held to need any 
literary derivation at a late period from Oenone ? 

i Cp. Rydberg, p. 655, as to the reasoning involved. 

2 Mtillenhoff, Deutsche Alter tumskunde, v. i, 56-7. . 

3 Nicolson, as cited, p. 125. But cp. Rydberg, p. 656, as to veneration of the mistletoe 
among the more southerly Teutons. „. „ 

4 Stephens, as cited, p. 339. 5 Rhys, Celtic Heathendom, pp. 22, 24, 29, 

6 Pausanias, x, 5. Compare the comments of Hermann Muller, Das nordische Grie- 
chenthum und die urgeschichtliche Bedeutung des nordwestlichen Europas, 1844, p. 447, ft. ; 
and K. Ottfried Muller, The Dorians, bk. ii, c. 4. 

I Teutonic Mythology, pp. 401-6. 

8 Cp. Grimm, i, 220 ; Simrock, as cited on p. 123 ; and Meyer, Mythol. der Germ. p. 391. 

9 Bergmann, Le Message de Skirnir, pp. 18-22. 


When all is said, the problem of priorities doubtless remains 
obscure ; but enough has been said to show that the confident 
inference of Christian sources for northern myths, which only 
remotely and in externals compare with the Christian, is thus far 
a very ill-established and recalcitrant hypothesis. And as the whole 
Christian legend, in its present terminology, is demonstrably an 
adaptation of a mass of pre-Christian myths, there is in all cases 
a special ground for doubt as to its being an original for a myth 
found among a semi-civilized people. The complete justification 
for such a doubt, however, is best to be gathered from a detailed 
examination of the claim made, as already mentioned, in regard to 
the myth of Krishna, studied hereinafter. 

Meantime, we have seen reason to insist, as regards every species 
of mythological problem, on a more comprehensive study of relations 
than is hitherto made by any one school. No single clue will lead 
us through the maze. Etymology, astronomy, solarism, the vege- 
tation principle, phallicism, symbolism, the influence of art, the 
pseudo-historical influence of Evemerism, all play their part in 
elucidating what it concerns us to elucidate — namely, the religious 
systems of the world in their mythological aspect. It is too much 
to hope that so vast a growth can be speedily interpreted with 
scientific certainty ; and many a special research must be made 
before a decisive co-ordination is possible. But at co-ordination we 
must aim ; and the effort towards it must be made pari passu with 
the progress of research, if the latter is not to become unintelligent 
and sterile. 



§ 1. The Problem of Priority. 

The long-debated issue of the historic relation between the gospel 
record and the Krishna myth 1 would seem to be one on which the 
rationalist may hope to reach a scientific conclusion by critical 
methods. His general principles are in no sense at stake, inasmuch 
as they will not be affected by any result of the particular investiga- 
tion. Were it shown that another cult borrowed, however largely, 
from the Christian, he would be in no sense put out. What is now 
in hand is a question of priority of myth forms. Some rationalists 
have, in my opinion, gone astray over the problem under notice, 
making errors of assumption and errors of inference in the course of 
an attempt to settle priority in a particular way ; but the detection 
of these errors does not settle the point of priority, and much less 
does it affect the comparative principle. And while the Naturalist, 
like everybody else, is fallible, it is he, of the two main disputants in 
this controversy, who is most likely to be impartial. Inasmuch as 
he is discussing, not the truth of any religion, but the question as to 
which religion first developed certain beliefs, he is free to reason 
justly on the historical data, and so may arrive at just conclusions. 
Eationalists are thus far divided on the historical issue, partly 
because of the uncertainty of the evidence, partly because of 
differences or oversights of logical method. But in the case of the 

1 The views of Professor Weber, hereinafter discussed, have naturally been welcomed 
and more or less fully endorsed by many Christian writers, missionary and other. See, 
for instance, Dr. J. M. Mitchell's Hinduism, Past and Present, 1885, pp. 79, 119; Major 
Jacobs' Manual of Hindu Pantheism, 1881, pp. 29-35; article on Hindu Monism, by 
Professor Richard Garbe, in The Monist, October, 1892, p. 66; J. Estlin Carpenter, art. on 
The Obligations of the New Testament to Buddhism, in Nineteenth Century, December, 
1880, pp. 971-2. Mr. Carpenter's acceptance of the pro-Christian view on the historical 
question typifies the attitude of Christian scholarship. " It is the opinion of the best 
Indianists," he writes, " that the worship of Krishna did not arise until the fifth or sixth 
century of our era"; and this confessedly second-hand opinion he immediately erects 
into a certainty : " Christ can owe nothing to Krishna, because he preceded him by four or 
five centuries." Mr. Carpenter apparently regards Krishna as a historical character. 

2 " There can be no true objective criticism until a man stands more or less indifferent 
to the result, and frees himself as far as possible from all subjective relations to the 
object of criticism." Baur, Kritische Untersuchung ilber die kanonischen Evangelien, 
1847, p. 72. 



disputant who sets out with a belief in the complete historic truth 
of the Christian religion, miracles and all, impartiality is impossible. 
He holds his own religion to be supernatural and true, and every 
other to be merely human and false, in so far as it makes super- 
natural claims. Thus for him every question is as far as possible 
decided beforehand. He is overwhelmingly biassed to the view that 
any "myth" which resembles a Christian "record" is borrowed 
from that ; and if, in some instances, he repels that conclusion, it is 
still, as we shall see in the sequel, for an a priori theological reason, 
and not for simple historical reasons. On such lines no sound 
critical results can be reached. But whereas the rationalist inquiry 
is in this connection logically free of presuppositions, any permanent 
results it attains are pure gain to human science, and must finally 
strengthen the Naturalist position if that position be really scientific. 

We wish to know, then, whether the Krishna myth or legend is in 
whole or in part derived from the Christ myth or Jesus legend, or 
vice versa, or whether there is any historical connection whatever 
between them. The alternative terms myth or legend, 1 implying 
respectively the absence and the presence of some personal basis or 
nucleus for the legends of the Hindu and Christian Incarnations, 
leave us quite free in our treatment of the historic facts — free, that 
is, under the restrictions of scientific principle and logical law. 

This special question of priority has long been before scholars. 
In Balfour's Cyclop&dia of India, in the article " Krishna " — a 
somewhat rambling and ill-digested compilation — it is stated that 
" since the middle of the nineteenth century several learned men 
have formed the opinion that some of the legends relating to Krishna 
have been taken from the life of Jesus Christ. Major Cunningham 
believes that the worship of Krishna is only a corrupt mixture of 
Buddhism and Christianity, and was a sort of compromise intended 
for the subversion of both religions in India," etc. In point of fact, 
the Christian theory is much older than the middle of the nineteenth 
century, as is pointed out by Professor Albrecht Weber in his 
exhaustive study of the Krishna Birth-Festival, 2 referred to in the 
Cyclopaedia article. As early as 1762 Father Giorgi, in his Alpha- 
betum Tibetanum, s discussed the question at length, founding even 
then on two previous writers, one Father Cassianus Maceratensis, 

1 See on this point of terminology Strauss, Das Leben Jesu, Einleit. § 10. 

2 Ueber die Krishnajanmdshtami (Krishna's Geburtsfest) in Abhandlungen der Konig- 
lichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1867. Translated piecemeal in Indian 
Antiquary, vols, iii and vi (1874-7). 

3 Rome, 1762, pp. 253-263, cited by Weber, p. 311. 


the other the French Orientalist De Guignes (the elder). All three 
held that the name " Krishna " was only nomen ipsum corruptum 
Christi Servatoris, a corruption of the very name of the Saviour 
Christ, whose deeds had been impiously debased by inexpressibly 
wicked impostors. The narratives, Giorgi held, had been got from 
the apocryphis libris de rebus Christi Jesu, especially from the 
writings of the Manichaeans. But his theory did not end there. 
The Indian epic-names Ayodhya, Yudhishthira, Yadava, he declared 
to be derived from the scriptural Judah ; the geographical name 
GomatI from Gethsemane ; the name Arjuna from John, Durvasas 
from Peter, and so on. 

But long before Giorgi, the English Orientalist Hyde, 1 and long 
before Hyde, Postel 2 had declared the name of Brahma to be a 
corruption of Abraham — a view which appears to have been common 
among Mohammedans ; 3 and Catholic missionaries early expounded 
this discovery among the Hindus, adding that the name of the female 
deity Saraswati was only a corruption of Sarah. 4 Other propa- 
gandists, again, scandalized Sir William Jones by assuring the 
Hindus that they were " almost Christians, because their Brahma, 
Vishnu, and Mahesa were no other than the Christian Trinity"; 
and Sir William's shocked protest did not hinder his disciple, the 
Rev. Thomas Maurice, from speaking of the " almost Christian 
theology" of Brahmanism; 6 Maurice's general contention being 
that the Indian and all other Triad systems were vestiges of an 
original pure revelation. 7 Nor was this all. As early as 1672 the 
Dutch missionary and trader Balde (Baldaeus) 8 maintained a number 
of the propositions supported in our own generation by Professor 
Weber (who does not refer to him) — namely, the derivation of parts 
of the Krishna myth from the Christian stories of the birth of Jesus, 
the massacre of the innocents, 9 etc. 

1 Historia Beligionis Veterum Persarum, 1700, p. 31. 

2 In his commentary on Abrahami Patriarchce liber Jesirah, 1552, cited by the Eev. T. 
Maurice, Indian Antiquities, 1793, etc., ii, 322 (should be 382 — paging twice repeated). 

3 Maurice, as cited, p. 323 (383). It may be, of course, that there is a very remote and 
secondary connection between the Abraham myth and the religion of India. It has been 
pointed out {Bible Folk Lore, 1884, pp. 25, 110) that Abraham's oak compares with 
Brahma's tree. The absurdity lies in the assumption that Brahmanism derives from the 
Hebrew Scriptures. On the problem of the origin and meaning of the name Brahma see 
Professor Max Muller's Gifford Lectures on Psychological Religion, 1893, p. 240, and 
citations by him. 

4 Moor's Hindu Pantheon, 1810, p. 130. " Writers are found to identify Buddha with 
the prophet Daniel" (H. H. Wilson, Works, ii, 317). 

5 On the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India : in Asiatic Researches, i, 272. 

6 Indian Antiquities, ii, 325. 

7 Id. ib. and v, 785, 806, etc. The Rajputs, says the Portuguese historian De Faria y 
Sousa (17th cent.), "acknowledge one God in three persons, and worship the Blessed 
Virgin, a doctrine which they have preserved ever since the time of the apostles " (Kerr's 
Collection of Voyages, 1812, vi, 228). 

8 An English translation of his work on Ceylon, etc., was published in the eighteenth 
century in Churchill's collection of travels, vol. iii. 

9 Cited by Maurice, History of Hindostan, 1798, ii, 330, note. 


Following this line of thought, Sir William Jones in 1788 
suggested that " the spurious gospels which abounded in the first 
ages of Christianity had been brought to India, and the wildest part 
of them repeated to the Hindus, who ingrafted them on the old 
fable of Cesava, the Apollo of Greece"; 1 this after the statement: 
" That the name of Crishna, and the general outline of his story, 
were long anterior to the birth of our Saviour, and probably to the 
time of Homer, we know very certainly." 2 And in the same treatise 
(On the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India) the scholar took occasion 
to announce that " the adamantine pillars of our Christian faith " 
could not be " moved by the result of any debates on the compara- 
tive antiquity of the Hindus and Egyptians, or of any inquiries into 
the Indian theology." 3 Still later, the French Orientalist Polier, 
seeing in the Hebrew Scriptures the earliest of all religious lore, 
decided that the triumph of Krishna over the serpent Kaliya (whose 
head he is represented crushing under his foot, and which at times, 
on the other hand, is seen biting his heel) was " a travesty of the 
tradition of the serpent-tempter who introduced death into the 
world, and whose head the saviour of mankind was to crush." 4 
These writers had of course taken it for granted that all heathen 
resemblances to Jewish and Christian stories must be the result of 
heathen imitation ; but on equally a priori grounds other Christian 
writers argued that the " impure " cult of Krishna could never have 
been derived from Christianity ; and the view spread that the Indian 
myths were of much greater antiquity than had been supposed ; the 
Carmelite monk Paulinus 5 (really Werdin or Wesdin) surmising that 
the legendary war, with which was connected the story of Vishnu's 
incarnation in Krishna, was to be dated " a thousand and more 
years before the birth of Christ." 

Thus far both sides had proceeded on a priori principles ; and 
when Volney in his Ruines (1791) implicitly derived the name 
Christ from Krishna (misspelt) he was but substituting an anti- 
Christian for a Christian presupposition. A comparatively scientific 
position was first taken up by the German Kleuker, who, discussing 
Paulinus' polemic, observed that he "willingly believed that the 
[Krishna] fable did not first arise out of these [Apocryphal] 
Gospels," but that nevertheless it might have derived " some 

1 Asiatic Researches, i, 274. 

2 Id. p. 273. 

3 In the same spirit, Maurice constantly aims at repelling the criticisms of Volney and 
other sceptics, always begging the question, and resenting its being raised. 

4 Mythologie des Indous, i, 445, cited by Weber. 

6 Sy sterna Brahmanicum, Rome, 1791, pp. 147, 152 ; cited by Weber. 


matter" from them. 1 According to Weber, the view that the 
Krishna story was the earlier became for a time the more general 
one. It is doubtful whether this was so ; but in 1810 we do find 
the English Orientalist Moor, following Jones, declaring it to be 
"very certain " that Krishna's " name and the general outline of his 
story were long anterior to the birth of our Saviour, and probably to 
the time of Homer " 2 — this while saying nothing to countenance the 
theory of later borrowing from Christianity, but on the contrary 
throwing out some new heterodox suggestions. Later the German 
mythologist Creuzer, in his great work, 3 set aside the supposed 
Christian parallels, and pointed rather to the Egyptian myth of 

§ 2. Age of Indian Documents. 

On the other hand, however, the case in favour of the assump- 
tion of Christian priority has been in a general way strengthened by 
the precise investigation of Hindu literature, which has gone to show 
that much of it, as it stands, is of a far later redaction than had 
once been supposed. It has been truly said by Eitter that in no 
literature are so many works to be found to which a remote origin 
has been assigned on insufficient grounds as in the Indian." 4 The 
measureless imagination of India, unparalleled in its disregard of 
fact and its range of exaggeration, has multiplied time in its tradi- 
tions as wildly as it has multiplied action in its legends, with the 
result that its history is likely to remain one of the most uncertain 
of all that are based on documents. It was indeed admitted by the 
first capable Orientalists that there is, properly speaking, no history 
in Indian literature at all. 5 All early historical traditions are 
untrustworthy ; but no other people ever approached the flights of 
fancy of the Hindu mind, which has measured the lives of its mythic 
heroes by millions of years, and assigned to the Institutes of Menu, 
certainly not 3,000 years old, an antiquity exceeding 4,320,000 years 
multiplied by six times seventy-one. 6 Of this delirium of specula- 
tion, the true explanation, despite all cavils, is doubtless that of 
Buckle — the influence of overwhelming manifestations of nature in 

1 Abhandlungen iiber die Geschichte und Alterthiimer Asiens, Riga, 1797, iv, 70; cited by 
Weber. (Tbe work is a translation, by J. F. Ficb, of papers from the Asiatic Researches, 
with notes and comments by Kleuker.) 

2 Hindu Pantheon, p. 200. 

3 Symbolik, 3te Aufi. i. 42, cited by Weber. , . . , 

4 History of Ancient Philosophy, Eng. tr. 1838, i, 69. Hitter's whole argument, which 
was one of the first weighty criticisms of the early assumptions of Orientalists, is judicial 
and reasonable. 

5 See Colebrooke in Asiatic Researches, ix. 398-9. 

6 Jones in Asiatic Researches, ii, 116. See a number of samples of this disease of 
imagination cited by Buckle, 3-vol. ed. i, 135-7. 


stimulating imagination and stunning the sceptical reason. 1 From 
even a moderate calculation of Indian antiquity, to say nothing of 
the fancies of the Brahmans, the step down to documentary facts is 
startling ; and it was not unnatural that skepticism should in turn 
be carried to extremes. 

When the documents are examined, it turns out that the oldest 
Indian inscriptions yet found are not three centuries earlier than the 
Christian era. 2 Nor does there seem to be a probability of much 
older records being found, there being reason to doubt whether the 
practice of writing in India dates many centuries earlier. Says 
Professor Max Muller : — 

" There is no mention of writing materials, whether paper, bark, or skins, 
at the time when the Indian Diaskeuasts [editors] collected the songs of 
their Rishis [poets or seers] ; nor is there any allusion to writing during 
the whole of the Brahmano period [i.e., according to the Professor's division, 

down to about 600 or 800 B.C.] Nay, more than this, even during the 

Sutra period [600 to 200 B.C.] all the evidence we can get would lead us to 
suppose that even then, though the art of writing began to be known, the 
whole literature of India was preserved by oral tradition only." 3 

Muller's division of Indian historical periods is somewhat 
unscientific ; but Tiele, who complains of this, accepts his view as 
to the introduction of the art of writing : — 

"Nearchus (325 B.C.) 4 and Megasthenes (300 B.C.) 5 both state that the 
Indians did not write their laws ; but the latter speaks of inscriptions upon 
mile-stones, and the former mentions letters written on cotton. From this 
it is evident that writing, probably of Phoenician origin, was known in 
India before the third century B.C., but was applied only rarely, if at all, to 
literature." 6 

1 Possibly, too, the partly entranced state of mind cultivated by Hindu sages may 
involve a repetitive brain process analogous to that seen in dreams, in which objects are 
multiplied and transformed, and the waking perception of time is superseded. 

2 Those of king Asoka, about 250 B.C. Tiele, Outlines of the History of Ancient 
Religions, Eng. tr. p. 121. See them in Asiatic Society's Journals, viii and xii ; in Wheeler's 
History of India, vol. iii, Appendix i; in Rhys Davids' Buddhism, pp. 220-8; and in the 
Indian Antiquary, June, 1877, vol. vi. Interesting extracts are given in Max Muller's 
Introduction to the Science of Religion, ed. 1882, pp. 5, 6, 23. 

3 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 500-1. Cp. p. 244. 

4 One of the generals of Alexander the Great. Only fragments of his account of his 
voyage on the Indian coast are preserved. 

5 Greek ambassador from Seleucus Nicator to the Indian king Sandracottus (Chandra- 
gupta) about 300 B.C. He wrote a work on India, of which, as of that of Nearchus, we have 
only the fragments preserved by later historians. See them all translated by Dr. J. W. 
McCrindle in the Indian Antiquary, vols, vi and vii (1877-8), from the collection of 
Schwanbeck; rep. in Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian, Calcutta, 
1877. This and the other five vols, published by Dr. McCrindle (last vol. Ancient India as 
Described in Classical Literature, Constable, 1901) constitute a great service to historical 
study. All are copiously annotated. 

6 Outlines, as cited. On the general question of the antiquity of writing it was long 
ago remarked by Jacob Bryant that " The Romans carried their pretensions to letters 
pretty high, and the Helladian Greeks still higher ; yet the former marked their years by 
a nail driven into a post ; and the latter for some ages simply wrote down the names of 
the Olympic victors from Corsebus, and registered the priestesses of Argos" (Holwell's 
Mythological Dictionary, condensed from Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology, 1793, 
p. 259). The question as regards India, however, cannot be taken as settled. In view of 
the antiquity of literary habits in other parts of Asia, it may well turn out that the 


But all this is perfectly compatible with the oral transmission 
of a great body of very ancient utterance. All early compositions, 
poetic, religious, and historical, were transmissible in no other way ; 
and the lack of letters did not at all necessarily involve loss. In all 
probability ancient unwritten compositions were often as accurately 
transmitted as early written ones, just because in the former case 
there was a severe discipline of memory, whereas in the other the 
facility of transcription permitted of many errors, omissions, and 
accidental interpolations. And the practice of oral transmission 
has survived. 

" Even at the present day, when MSS. are neither scarce nor expensive, 
the young Brahmans who learn the songs of the Vedas and the Brahmanas 
and the Sutras, invariably learn them from oral tradition, and learn them 
by heart. They spend year after year under the guidance of their teacher, 
learning a little day after day, repeating what they have learnt as part of 

their daily devotion The ambition to master more than one subject is 

hardly known in India In the Mahabharata we read, ' Those who sell the 

Vedas, and even those who write them, those also who defile them, shall go to 
hell.' Kumarila [800 C.E.] says : ' That knowledge of the truth is worthless 

which has been acquired from the Veda, if it has been learnt from 

writing or been received from a Sudra.' How then was the Veda learnt? 
It was learnt by every Brahman during twelve years of his studentship or 
Bramacharya." 1 

§ 3. The Special Documents. 

In point of fact, no one disputes that the Vedas are in the main 
of extremely ancient composition (the oldest portions being at least 
three thousand years old, and possibly much more) ; 2 and that a 
large part even of the literature of commentary upon them, as the 
Brahmanas, treatises of ritual and theology, and the Upanishads, 
religio-philosophical treatises, originated at more or less distant 
periods before our era. We have seen that Miiller makes even the 
Sutra period — that of the composition of manuals for public and 

estimates above cited are too low. Tiele's "only rarely, if at all," makes rather too little 
of the Greek testimony. The Phoenician origin of the Indian alphabets, too, though 
probable, is only one of many conflicting hypotheses. For a discussion of these see 
I. Taylor's work on The Alphabet, 1883, ii, 304, sa. 

1 Miiller, work cited, pp. 501-3. Comp. Tiele, Outlines, p. 123. This description 
corresponds remarkably with Caesar's account of the educational practices of the Druids. 
He tells (De Bello Gallico, vi, 14) that many entered the Druid discipline, learning orally 
a great number of verses ; some remaining in pupillage as long as twenty years ; and 
this though writing was freely used for secular purposes. Caesar offers as explanation 
the wish to keep sacred lore from the many, and the desire to strengthen the faculty of 
memory. We may add, in regard alike to Druids and Brahmans, the prestige of ancient 
custom, which in other religions made priests continue to use stone knives long after 

metal ones were invented. 'Brahmanism has kept to the last to its primitive tools, 

its penthouses of bamboo, its turf-clods and grass-blades, and a few vessels of wood" 
(Barth, The Religions of India, Eng. tr. p. 129). Modern European parallels will readily 
suggest themselves. 

2 Barth, p. 6. 


domestic guidance — begin about 600 B.C. But the religious history 
of India, as of every other country, is that of a process of develop- 
ment ; and just as the system of the Vedas was superimposed on 
simpler forms of nature- worship, 1 so the elaborate system based on 
the Vedas by the Brahmans was innovated upon from different 
sides. Thus, four or five centuries before our era, there arose the 
great movement of Buddhism, in which comparatively new doctrine 
was bound up with modifications of ancient legends ; while on the 
other hand deities formerly insignificant, or little known, gradually 
came to be widely popular. Such a development took place in a 
notable degree in the case of the cult of Krishna. 

At the present moment the worship of Krishna is the most 
popular of the many faiths of India ; and it has unquestionably 
been so for many centuries. It is, however, no part of the ancient 
Vedic system ; and the bulk of the literature in connection with it 
is not more than a thousand years old, if so much. Mention of 
Krishna certainly does occur in the earlier literature, but the advent 
of his worship as a preponderating religion in historic India is late. 
On the face of the matter, it would seem to have been accepted and 
endorsed by the Brahmans either because they could not help 
themselves, or by way of finding a weapon to resist some other 
cultus that pressed Brahmanism hard. Hence the peculiar difficulty 
of the question of origins as regards its details. 

The chief documents in which Krishnaism is to be studied are 
(l) the Mahabharata, a great epic poem, of which the events are 
laid long anterior to our era, and of which much of the matter is 
probably pre-Buddhistic ; 2 (2) the Bhagavat Gita or " Song of the 
Most High "; (3) the Puranas, an immense body of legendary and 
theological literature, including eighteen separate works, of which 
the earliest written belong to our eighth or ninth century. It is in 
the latter, especially in the Bhagavat Purana and Vishnu Purana, 
that the great mass of mythic narrative concerning Krishna is to 
be found. The tenth book of the Bhagavat Purana consists wholly 
of the Krishna saga. The Gita is a fine poetico-philosophical com- 
position, one of the masterpieces of Indian literature in its kind, in 
every way superior to the Puranas ; and it simply makes Krishna 
the voucher of its advanced pantheistic teaching, giving no legends 

1 In the Veda, says M. Barth, "I recognize a literature that is pre-eminently sacerdotal, 
and in no sense a popular one " {Religions of India, pref. p. xiii). 

2 See Professor Goldstucker's essay in the Westminster Review, April. 1888; or his 
Literary Remains, ii, 135, 142. The Mahabharata, says Iff. Barth, "which is in the main 
the most ancient source of our knowledge of these religions, is not even roughly dated ; 
it has been of slow growth, extending through ages, and is besides of an essentially 
encyclopaedic character" (Religions of India, p. 187; cp. Goldstucker, ii, 130). 


as to his life. 1 Of this work the date is uncertain, and will have to 
be considered later. The Mahabharata, again, presents Krishna as 
a warrior demi-God, 2 performing feats of valour, and so mixed up 
with quasi-historic events as to leave it an open question whether 
the story has grown up round the memory of an actual historic 
personage. But it is impossible to construct for that legendary 
history any certain chronology; and the obscurity of the subject 
leaves it arguable that even in the epos Krishna is not an early but 
a late element — an interpolation arising out of the modern popularity 
of his cultus. We must then look to analysis and comparative 
research for light on the subject. 

§ 4. The Krishna Legend. 

The outlines of the Krishna saga are well known, 3 but for the 
convenience of readers I transcribe the brief analysis given by 
M. Barth 4 :— 

"As a character in the epic and as accepted by Vishnuism, Krishna is 

a warlike prince, a hero, equally invincible in war and love, but above all 
very crafty, and of a singularly doubtful moral character, like all the figures, 
however, which retain in a marked way the mythic impress. The son of 

Vasudeva and Devaki he was born at Mathura, on the Yamuna, between 

Delhi and Agra, among the race of the Yadavas, a name which we meet with 
again at a later period in history as that of a powerful Rajput tribe. Like 
those of many solar heroes, his first appearances were beset with perils and 
obstructions of every kind. On the very night of his birth his parents had 
to remove him to a distance beyond the reach of his uncle, King Kamsa, 
who sought his life because he had been warned by a voice from heaven that 
the eighth son of Devaki would put him to death, and who consequently had 
his nephews the princes regularly made away with as soon as they saw the 

light Conveyed to the opposite shore of the Yamuna, and put under the 

care of the shepherd Nanda and his wife Yacoda, he was brought up as their 
son in the woods of Vrindavana, with his brother Balarama, ' Rama the 
strong,' who had been saved as he was from massacre," and "who has for his 
mother at one time Devaki herself, at another time another wife of Vasudeva, 

Rohini The two brothers grew up in the midst of the shepherds, slaying 

monsters and demons bent on their destruction, and sporting with the Gopis, 
the female cowherds of Vrindavana. These scenes of their birth and infancy, 
these juvenile exploits, these erotic gambols with the Gopis, this entire idyll 
of Vrindavana became in course of time the essential portion of the legend 

1 Owing to theBhagavat Gita and the Bhagavat Purana being alike sometimes^ referred 
to as " the Bhagavat," there has occurred the mistake of referring to the Gita as con- 
taining the legends of Krishna's life. . 

2 In one passage " all the heroes of the poem are represented as incarnations of Gods 
or demons " (Barth, Beligions of India, p. 172 n.). 

3 See a detailed account in Sir George Cox's Mythology of the Aryan Nations, ed. 1882, 
pp. 367-371. 

4 Beligions of India, pp. 172-4. 



of Krishna, just as the places which were the scene of them remain to the 
present time the most celebrated centres of his worship. Arrived at adoles- 
cence, the two brothers put to death Kamsa, their persecutor, and Krishna 
became king of the Yadavas. He continued to clear the land of monsters, 
waged successful wars against impious kings, and took a determined side in 
the great struggle of the sons of Pandu against those of Dhritarashtra, which 
forms the subject of the Mahabharata. In the interval he had transferred 
the seat of his dominion to the fabulous city of Dvaraka, ' the city of gates,' 
the gates of the West, built on the bosom of the western sea, and the site of 
which has since been localized in the peninsula of Gujarat. It was there 
that he was overtaken, himself and his race, by the final catastrophe. After 
having been present at the death of his brother, and seen the Yadavas, in 
fierce struggle, kill one another to the last man, he himself perished, wounded 
in the heel, like Achilles, by the arrow of a hunter." 

In this mere outline there may be seen several features of the 
universal legend of a conquering and dying Sun-God; and, though 
the identification of Krishna with the sun is as old as the written 
legend, it may be well at the outset to indicate the solar meanings 
that have been attributed to the story by various writers. The 
name of Krishna means "the black one" (or rather "black-blue 
one ")/ and he thus in the first place comes into line with the black 
deities of other faiths, notably the Osiris 2 of Egypt, to say nothing 
of the black manifestations of Greek deities, 3 and of the Christian 
Jesus. 4 Why then is Krishna, in particular, black ? It is fallacious 
to assume that any one cause can be fixed as the reason for the 
attribution of this colour to deities in ancient religions : primary 
mythological causes might be complicated by the fact that the smoke 
of sacrifices had from time immemorial blackened 5 statues innumer- 
able, and by the mere fact that, as in Egypt, black stone was very 
serviceable for purposes of statuary. At Megara there were three 
ebony statues of Apollo ; and the mystic explanation of the choice of 
material seems to have been purely fanciful. 6 But there are, all the 
same, primary mythological explanations, which, in view of many of 
the facts, 7 must be pronounced necessary ; and one is offered by Tiele 

1 Gubernatis, Letture sopra la mitologia vedica, 1874, p. 262. See Moor, Hindu Pantheon, 
p. 195, as to the epithet " blue-blooded." 

2 Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, cc. 22, 33. 

3 Pausanias, i, 48 ; ii, 2 ; viii, 6, 42 ; ix, 27. 

4 For a list of black Christian statues of Mary and Jesus (=Isis and Horos)see Higgins's 
Anacalypsis, 1836, i, 138. Compare King's Gnostics, 2nd ed. p. 173. 

5 Arnobius, Adv. Gentes,\i,16; Baruch, vi, 21. Cp., Pausanias, i, 27, as to the grimy 
statues of Athene\ said to have been touched by fire when Xerxes took the city. 

6 Pausanias, i, 42. Again, Pausanias asserts (viii, 23) that all River-Gods in Egypt 
except the Nile have white statues, Nilus being figured as black because it flows through 
Ethiopia 1 

7 For instance, the Boy-God of Sleep was figured in black marble as being associated 
with the night (Addison, Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, 5th ed. p. 239). The Black 
Demdter may reasonably be assumed to be so as representing the earth ; the black-robed 
Isis is naturally the moon (Plutarch, I. and O. 52); and the blue-black robe of Leto 
(Hesiod, Theogony, 406) as Night-Goddess is obviously significant ; but Leto also, like Isis, 
was further represented as an Earth-Goddess (Macrobius, Sat. i, 17), and black in other 


in the present case. Krishna is " the hidden sun-god of the night," 
a character attaching more or less to many figures in the Hindu 

"That Parasau-Rama, the ' axe-Rama,' is a God of the solar fire, admits 
of no doubt. He springs from the Brahman race of the Bhrigus (lightning) ; 
his father's name is Jamadagni, ' the burning fire.' Like all Gods of the 
solar fire, he is the nightly or hidden one, and accordingly he slays Arjuna, 

the bright God of day In the myth of Krishna, on the other hand, the 

two Sun-Gods are friendly, 2 the old pair of deities Vishnu and Indra in a 
new shape." 3 

It should be also noted that Vishnu, of whom Krishna is an 
Incarnation, is represented as "dark blue," 4 as is Krishna himself 
in one statue, 5 and as were at times Kneph 6 and Osiris 7 and Amun 
in Egypt. On the other hand Professor de Gubernatis, one of the 
most acute, if also one of the more speculative of modern mytho- 
logists, argues that as Indra himself is called in the Satapatha 
Brahmana Arjuna, the "white" or "bright one," and in the 
Mahabharata the father of Arjuna, while Arjuna again occurs as 
a name of Krishna, the three are interfluent ; and Krishna is to be 
understood as " changing colour," as it were, first figuring as the 
twin of Arjuna in a pair of Asvins, Sun-God and Moon-God, and later 
acquiring the luminous character of Indra, who in turn becomes 
tenebrous. Krishna, in short, " increases," while Indra " decreases," 
becoming decadent and "demoniacal." 9 In sum, Professor de 
Gubernatis is convinced of the solar character of Krishna ; but 
points out that in the Eig Veda he is merely a demon 10 — a natural 

cases seems to have a more indirect symbolical meaning. The bull Apis and the bull 
Mnevis, in the Egyptian cults, may be either solar or lunar (Aelian, De Nat. Animal., says 
Mnevis was sacred to the sun, and Apis to the moon) ; and we know from Strabo (xvii, 1, 
§ 27) that Mnevis was treated as a God in a temple of the sun at Heliopolis ; but both are 
black. Apis, the " image of the soul of Osiris " (Plutarch, I. and 0. 20, 29, 39 ; cp. Macrobius, 
Saturnalia, i, 21), was not only black himself (Strabo, xvii, 1, § 31 ; Herodotus, iii, 28) but 
put on black robes (Plutarch, I. and O. 39, 43). And Mnevis, said to be the sire of Apis, is 
black to begin with (J. and O. 33). Again, the statue of the later God Serapis, like Osiris, 
was blue or black, as containing many metallic ingredients (Clemens Alexandrinus, 
Protrep. iv). The alternate ascription of the colour bhie, as noted below, points to the 
Night-Sun theory. 

1 Outlines, p. 145. Cp. Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 9. 

2 In Egypt, Typhon, who was red (Is. and Os., cc. 22, 30, 31, 33) and was declared to be 
solar (Id. 41), was the enemy of the "good" Sun-God and Vegetation-God Osiris, who was 
black, and who was also declared to represent the lunar world (Id. ib. Contrast 51, 52). 
The transpositions are endless — a warning against rigid definitions in less known 
mythologies. . 

3 Outlines, p. 145. Arjuna is "himself a name and form of Indra" (Weber, in Indian 
Antiquary, iv, 246). 

4 Moor's Hindu Pantlieon, pp. 26, 27. Goldstucker, Bemains, i, 309. Compare Pausamas, 
x, 78, as to a blue-black demon. . . s 

5 Of blue marble, in which he figures as swimming on the water, in the great cistern oi 
Khatmandu (Bahr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, i, 326, and refs.). 

6 Eusebius, Prcsparatio Evangelica, iii, 1. 

7 Cp. Clemens, Protrept. iv ; von Bohlen, Das alte Indien, i, 228 ; Kenrick, l, 396. 

8 Kenrick, Ancient Egypt, i, 370 ; Tiele, Egyptian Beligion, Eng. tr. p. 160. 

9 Letture sopra la mitologia vedica, pp. 262-7. 

10 Compare Senart, Essai sur la Legende du Buddha, 2e ed. p. 322, n. In the early faiths 
the " daemon " of mixed characteristics is a constant figure, he being often the deity of 


character of " the black one "; is the enemy of the Vedic God Indra ; 
and only later becomes the God of the cows and cowherds. 1 He 
remains, however, " the God who is black during the night, but who 
becomes luminous in the morning among the cows of the dawning, 
or among the female cowherds." 2 The complications of solar and 
other mythology are endless ; and it is one thing to give a general 
account such as this, and another to trace with confidence the 
evolution of such a deity as Krishna from the beginning. A reason- 
able presumption is that he was a demon for the Aryan invaders, as 
being a God of the aborigines, who figure generally on the side of the 
Krishnas or black demons ; and that for these he was a God of the 
sky and the rain, hence also black, hence God of the night, hence 
associated with the Night- Sun, hence a Sun-God generally. Again, 
if Dr. Frazer be right as to the priority of the idea of a Vegetation- 
God in cults commonly associated with the Sun, Krishna may have 
been primarily such a God, and as thus associated with the earth 
may have been black — the explanation of Dr. Frazer for the blackness 
of Demeter and Osiris. 3 Or he may have been black merely as a 
God of the black-skinned natives. 4 In any case he was the rival of 
Indra, and so presumably had similar functions. And that original 
relation to Indra is perfectly borne out by the written legend, in 
which Krishna is represented as turning away worshippers from 
Indra, 6 whose cult his probably superseded, and who figures in the 

outsiders to begin with ; while in any case the need to propitiate him would tend to raise 
his rank. Compare the habit, common in rural Britain till recently, of " speaking the 
Devil fair," and calling him "the good man." He, being a survival of the genial Pan, 
exemplifies both of the tendencies to compromise. As to the gradual lowering of the 
status of daemons, cp. Grote, History, ed. 1888, i, 66. Osiris and Isis, again, were held to 
be raised "from the rank of good daemons to that of deities," while Typhon (Set) was 
discredited, but still propitiated. See Plutarch, I. and O. 27, 30. Cp. 25-6, and Pleyte, La 
Beligion des Pre-Israelites, Leide, 1865, p. 131. It is thus probable that all three were 
primarily aboriginal Gods, accepted in different degrees by races of conquerors, though 
'from the most remote antiquity Set is one of the Osirian circle, and is thus a genuine 
Egyptian deity" (Tiele, Egyptian Beligion, Eng. tr. p. 49). The difficulty is to conceive 
how otherwise Set came to be "in turn revered and hated, invoked and persecuted," till 
finally his very name was officially proscribed (Id. p. 49). Tiele's historical theory is 
interesting, though not conclusive (pp. 47-51. Cp. E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, 
i, 69, 71, 112). It is not clear whether Set was not confounded with the alien God Sutech, 
and thereby discredited (Meyer, p. 135=§ 111. See also his monograph, Set-Typhon, 1875, 
pp. 55-62; and cp. Tiele, Egyptian Beligion, p. 143 and p. 190). 

1 Zoological Mythology, 1872, i, 75. 

2 Id. p. 51. Cp. Goldziher, Hebrew Mythology, Eng. tr. p. 146 ff . The conceptions of a 
God alternately of day and of night is seen in Greek and Roman names for Zeus in the two 
capacities. Cp. Professor Pais, Ancient Legends of Boman History, Eng. tr., 1906, pp. 18, 62. 

3 See Note at end of section. 

4 The Greek Hermes, who is surmised (Kenan, Etudes d'histoire religieuse, pp. 42, 46, 
following K. O. Miiller) to have been a Pelasgic deity, who survived with the ancient race, 
has many of the characteristics of Krishna, and in particular makes himself black with 
ashes (Callimachus, Hymn to Artemis, 69) in one story. The theory of the commentators 
(Spanheim, cited in Ernesti's ed. ad loc), that this was not the celestial but a terrestrial 
Hermes, recalls the formula that the Iliad was not written by Homer but by another poet 
of the same name. But the old discussions as to the four or five Mercuries, the celestial, 
the terrestrial, the infernal, and yet others (cp. Cicero, De Natura Deorum, iii,22 ; Servius 
on the Mneid, iv, 577), point to a number of syncretic adaptations, of which the result was 
that Hermes, though not clearly a Sun-God to start with, in the end has the solar charac- 
teristics (cp. Emeric-David, Introduction, end). 

5 Vishnu Purdna, b. v, chs. 10 11. Wilson's trans. 1840, pp. 522-7. 


account of Krishna's death and ascension as a subordinate God 1 
(obviously = the firmament, a character always more or less asso- 
ciated with him in the Vedas, where he is " the pluvial and thunder- 
ing God " 2 ), through whose region of space Krishna passes on the 
way to heaven. 3 Whatever may have been the machinery of his 
deposition, Indra is one more instance of an older God superseded, 
for a given race, by one who for them was newer, however long 
worshipped by another race. 4 

But as against all such attempts to explain Krishnaism in terms 
of the observed mythic tendencies of ancient Aryan religion, there is 
maintained on the Christian side — not, as we shall see, by any 
important thinker — the proposition before mentioned, that the entire 
Krishna legend is a late fabrication, based on the Christian gospels. 
It is necessary, therefore, to examine that argument in detail before 
we form any conclusions. 

Note on the Black Osieis. 

That Osiris was either a Sun-God or the Nile-God in origin is 
the view most favoured by the evidence in Plutarch (Isis and Osiris, 
cc. 32, 33). Half a century ago, however, Kenrick {Ancient Egypt, 
1850, i, 400) rejected the solar theory, and identified Osiris with the 
Earth and the principle of fertility ; here anticipating Dr. J. G. 
Frazer, who in The Golden Bough (ed. 1890, i, 311 sq.) insists, as 
against Tiele and others, that Osiris was a God of Vegetation. The 
solution seems to lie in admitting that the later Osiris combined all 
the characteristics in question. To insist upon any one in particular 
is to obscure the psychological process of ancient dogmatics. 

The most obvious grounds for connecting Osiris with Vegetation 
are his associations with corn and trees (Frazer, i, 303-9). But it 
is not at all clear that these are the earliest characteristics of the 
Egyptian God. " The original character of Osiris is doubtful, and 
that of Isis is equally impossible to discover " (Erman, Handbook of 
Egypt. Belig., Eng. tr. 1907, p. 31). According to some, the strictly 
historical evidence appears to show that Osiris was originally a Sun- 
God, whose cultus was latterly modified by foreign elements — that, 
in fact, the Vegetation-principle, regarded by Dr. Frazer as the root 
of the cult, was added in imitation of the Adonis cult of Byblos. 
See Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, i, 67-69 and refs. By 
Rameses IV, Osiris is expressly addressed as " the moon " and " the 
Nile "; yet at the same time he figures as the supporter of the earth 

1 He acknowledges himself vanquished by Krishna (Id. c. 30, p. 588) and honours him 
(Id. c. 12, p. 528). Similarly Krishna overthrows Varuna. Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, 
iv, ch. ii, § 5. 

2 Gubernatis, Zool. Myihol. i, 403 ; Mitologia vedica, p. 183 sq. 

3 Maurice, History of Hindostan, ii, 473, professing to follow the Mahabharata. 

4 Cp. Gubernatis, Mitologia vedica, pp. 204, 264, 267. 


(Erman, as cited, pp. 80, 81). The arboreal character of Osiris is 
shared by him with Dionysos (see above, p. 84), who nevertheless 
assumed solar characteristics, and was represented as gold-coloured 
or red (Pausanias, ii, 2) ; and with Yahweh, who has no other charac- 
teristic of the Vegetation-God, save that of rain-giving, which he 
shares with Zeus. If then Yahweh assumed it after having begun 
as a solar or thundering God, the Osiris cult may have done the 
same. In the Book of the Dead, however, while Osiris is often 
described as the sun, we find him so hailed in a litany (xv) in which 
he is styled " Lord of the Acacia tree " (Budge's trans, p. 35) ; and 
though this may mean the coffin-tree, which symbolises his resur- 
rection, that symbol itself is problematic. Perhaps the true solution 
is that he was first, like Hades, the place of the dead. (Cp. Erman, 
pp. 7, 11, 12, 15, 16.) But the fact that the Egyptian word for 
earth is masculine (Id. p. 7) may have determined the doctrine. 

The case being thus complicated, it is hardly possible to settle it 
on the side of one hypothesis by ascribing the blackness of the God 
to his connection with the earth. As we have seen, there are many 
grounds on which deities may be represented as black. Osiris was 
held by some to be black as representing water (Plut. 33) ; while 
others associated him with sun and moon respectively (Id. 43, 51, 
52). A similar blending occurs in the case of the Nile-God Sebak 
(Tiele, Egyptian Beligion, Eng. tr. pp. 135-137). The water theory 
may be the most comprehensive solution (cp. Selden, De Diis Syris, 
Syntag. i, cap. 4, ed. 1680, p. 73). Dr. Frazer offers no explanation 
of Osiris as blue, though on his view he can explain him as black or 
as green (i, 403), which latter colour is said by Wilkinson (Manners 
and Customs of Ancient Egyptians, ed. 1878, iii, 81) to be very 
common in the Osiris monuments. But we have here to note (l) 
that Osiris might be green by the mere chance of the medium being 
green basalt (see Maspero, Manual of Egyptian Archceology, Eng. tr. 
ed. 1895, p. 237); (2) that in the coloured monuments " the blues 
have turned somewhat green or grey ; but this is only on the surface " 
(Id. p. 203 ; cp. Wornum, Epochs of Painting, 1847, p. 26) ; and (3) 
that "water is always represented by a flat tint of blue, or by blue 
covered with zig-zag lines in black" (Maspero, p. 204). So in 
Greece black bulls were sacrificed to Poseidon as representing the 
colour of the sea (Cornutus, De nat. Deor. c. 22). On the other 
hand, green, no less than crimson or gold, was for the Egyptian a 
characteristic colour of the dawn. The Lion of Dawn had a green 
cap or mantle. The Golden Hawk has wings of green. " One of 
the names of the Dawn is Uat 'it, which signifies ' the green one,' 
just as I'alba or Vaube signifies ' the white one '" ; " one of the names 
of the Dawn- God Shu is neshem, 'green felspar'; and the green 
colour of the frog is a clue to the meaning of the ancient Goddess 
Hequet " (Le Page Kenouf, Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. pref. pp. xiii- 
xiv). As is observed by Wiedemann : " The precise colouring of the 
deities on the monuments, at present very little studied, would form 


a profitable subject of inquiry by one on the spot in Egypt, leading 
to interesting results in regard to the nature of the several divinities" 
{Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, Eng. trans. 1897, p. 118, note). 
This writer in turn speaks (p. 140) of "the green face and hands 
characteristic of deities of the underworld," a view which meets the 
case of the green Osiris, but leaves open the problem of his blue 

All things considered, it seems likely that in Egypt, where the 
soil counted for so little without the Nile overflow, the latter rather 
than the former would figure as the greater or more worshipful 
thing. In any case, Osiris cannot well have been merely an Earth- 
God or Plant- Spirit, though as " Place of the Dead " he might inci- 
dentally be both. It is not disputed that from the earliest times he is 
the consort of Isis ; and Isis, as Dr. Frazer grants, is an Earth-God- 
dess and Corn-Goddess ; approximating at several points to Demeter, 
like whom she is figured as black. But the Earth can hardly have 
been figured as at once God and Goddess, in a married couple, from 
time immemorial. If Isis be the Grain or Earth, Osiris might be 
either the fructifying Nile or the Sun, or both, but hardly Grain or 
Earth over again. It is true that there was an Earth-God Tellumon 
(Preller, Bom. Myth. p. 402), and that the Earth was described by 
the later Egyptians as male under the form of rock, and as female 
under the form of arable land (Seneca, Qucest. nat. iii, 14 ; cp. 
Macrobius, Saturnalia, iii, 8, as to the moon). But the rock would 
not symbolize the fructifying power of Osiris ; and the idea was 
probably drawn late from the cult of Mithra, which rivalled the 
Osirian. It is true further that Osiris was held lord of all things 
fiery and spiritual, and Isis ruler of all things dry and moist 
(Diodorus Siculus, i, 11) ; and there is some evidence that fruit- 
bearing trees were called male, and others female ; but these are 
visibly late theories or common fancies, not early God-ideas. In 
Plutarch, on the other hand, Osiris is said to be the Nile and 
Typhon the Sea ; and Osiris stands for everything moist, while 
Typhon represents everything fiery and dry (cc. 32, 33, 35). Then 
the blackness of Osiris is not symbolical of the Earth, but of some- 
thing else. And when we note that the ancient God Min, of Upper 
Egypt, who is "of dark complexion," is probably the germ of Amun of 
Thebes, also of dark complexion (Erman, pp. 18, 19), and is also identi- 
fied with Horos, we are left no less in doubt. Even the blackness of 
Isis is not to be ascribed strictly and solely to her as symbolizing 
the Earth ; she unquestionably was associated, whether first or last, 
with the Moon and the zodiacal Virgin, and would thus be black as 
Queen of the Night Sky, as was the black Aphrodite. (Pausanias, 
viii, 6 ; Orphica, ii, 1-2 ; Macrobius, last cit.) 

The truth is, there was no means by which any God or Goddess 
in antiquity, among nations with cognate or competing cults, could 
be prevented from gradually assimilating to any of the others with 
similar status, What happened later in the Christ cult, before the 


period of crystallization under Roman headship, happened perforce 
in the older cults. As Yahweh grew from the God of a tribe to a 
God of the nations, so every thriving deity tended to receive wider 
and wider functions. The process was economic as well as psychic. 
It was every priest's business to increase the vogue of his temple's 
divinities, unless he were expressly hindered by the bestowal of a 
monopoly on a particular God by a particular king ; and every 
worshipper, when smoothly handled, was naturally ready to 
aggrandize his favourite deity. That this historically took place in 
the case of Osiris we know from the monuments, which show him 
to have been assimilated to the Sun-God Ra (Tiele, p. 44 ; Erman, 
pp. 81-83 ; Wiedemann, p. 306. Cp. Diod. Sic. i, 25). 

But this was only one of many such blendings. We know for 
instance that Ptah, who was " certainly not originally a Sun-God," 
is "distinctly called the sun-disc" (Chantepie de la Saussaye, 
Manual of the Science of Beligion, Eng. tr. p. 425). Now, Ptah 
does seem to have been originally an Earth-God or Vegetation-God, 
and he was represented as green (Tiele, Egyptian Beligion, Eng. tr. 
p. 160), though he had also "the blue beard and diadem of Amun, 
whose colour was blue," as was that of Kneph. Amun in turn 
seems to have been a Nile-God and a Sun-God (Tiele, pp. 146, 148, 
149 ; cp. Wiedemann, Bel. of the Anc. Egyptians, Eng. tr. as cited). 
In short, a unification of all the Gods with the Sun-God was one of 
the most prevalent tendencies in Egyptian religion (noted by Frazer, 
i, 314), as again in the Mexican. "The Gods of the dead and the 
elemental Gods were almost all identified with the sun, for the 
purpose of blending them in a theistic unity " (Maspero, cited by 
Lang, M. B. B. 2nd ed. ii, 134). Compare E. Meyer, Geschichte des 
alten Aegyptens, in Oncken's series, K. iii, p. 249. As to the case of 
Cham, the Vegetation-God, who was blended with the Sun-God 
Horos, see Tiele, pp. 122-127. Such combinations may have been 
deliberately arranged among the priests, who at all times received 
an enormous revenue (Diod. Sic. i, 28, 81). 

It is thus doubly unnecessary to resort for explanation of any 
junction of the solar and vegetal principles to the ingenious theory 
of Dr. Frazer (ii, 369) that the fire-sticks would be held to contain 
fire as a kind of sap. Kenrick (i, 403) readily acknowledged that 
the principle of fertility would involve alike the Sun and the Nile ; 
and the historical data since collected amply bear him out. 

§ 5. The Christian Argument. 

Among modern statements of the Christian theory of Krishnaism, 
one of the most explicit and emphatic is that inserted by an anony- 
mous Sanskritist in a criticism of the first volume of Mr. J. Talboys 
Wheeler's History of India, in the Athenaum of August 10th, 1867. 
The criticism is hostile, pointing out that Mr. Wheeler " is not a 


Sanskrit scholar, nor has he very carefully examined the transla- 
tions with which he works," so that "we are never sure, without 
referring to the original, what particulars [as to Hindu legends] are 
drawn from the great epic, and what are from the Puranas and other 
sources." It might have been added that the previous performance 
of Mr. Wheeler had shown him to be a somewhat biassed historian. 
He had produced a number of popular abridgments or manuals of 
Old and New Testament history, in one of which he does not scruple 
to assert that while " Matthew, who wrote for the Jews, traces the 
pedigree of Joseph through David to Abraham, Luke, who wrote for 
the Gentiles, traces the descent of Mary through David to Adam." 1 
Such an apologist naturally does not flinch at alleging that Celsus 
and Porphyry "recognize " the gospels as the " genuine work of the 
apostles"; 2 and for such a reasoner, it is readily intelligible, the 
" mythic theory " is disposed of by the argument that it would make 
out the history of Julius Caesar to be a thorough myth. It will 
doubtless be comforting to many to learn that this soundly religious 
writer was made Professor of " Moral and Mental Philosophy and 
Logic " in the Presidency College of Madras, and that he has written 
an elaborate history of India with a considerable measure of 

But the critic of Mr. Wheeler's history in the Athenceum is 
hardly the person to take exception to intellectual tendencies such 
as these. His own philosophy of history includes the belief that 
" the history of Krishnah has been borrowed by the Brahmans from 
the Gospel"; and he proceeds to prove his case by the following 
account of the legend in the Bhagavat Purana and Mahabharata — 
an account which is worth citing at length as indicating a number of 
the minor myth-resemblances in the Hindu and Christian narratives, 
and as unintentionally paving the way for a fresh historical investi- 
gation of the latter : — 

" The recital [in the Purana] commences with the announcement that to 
hear the story of Krishnah and believe it is all that is required for salvation ; 
and throughout the narrative the theme of exhortation is faith. Next it is 
declared that, sin and impiety having spread over the whole world, the 
Deity resolved to become incarnate in the form of Krishnah. He determined 
to destroy a tyrant king, whose name signifies Lust, who ruled at Mathura, 
and who murdered children. Krishnah is represented as born the nephew 
of this king, and therefore of royal descent. The name of his tribe is Yadu, 

1 Abridgment of New Testament History, 1854, p. 35. Cp. Analysis and Summary of 
New Testament History, 1859, by same author (p. 28), where it is explained that LiuHe went 
back to Adam because he was "desirous of proving [the Gentiles'] admission into tpe 
Gospel covenant "—the descent of David from Adam not being an established hypothesis. 

2 Analysis, as cited, p. xxviii. 


which is almost the same as Yahudah in Hebrew. His real mother was 
Devakf, which signifies the Divine Lady, and his reputed mother Yasoda, 
or Yashoda. His father's name was Vasudev. In comparing this word 
with Yusef, we must remember that Dev in Sanskrit signifies divine, and 
the d appears to have been inserted from that word. The resemblance of 
the name Krishnah itself to Christ is remarkable enough, but it becomes 
more so when we consider that the root ' Krish ' means ' to tinge,' and may 
well be taken to signify also ' anoint.'' Preliminary to the birth of Krishnah 
the four Vedas become incarnate, and the tyrant king is warned by a divine 
voice that a son is to be born in his house who will destroy him. Upon this 
he puts to death the infants that are born to the Divine Lady, and makes a 
great slaughter of the tribe of Yadu. Notwithstanding this, Krishnah is 
born and placed in a basket for winnowing corn ; in other ivords, a manger. 
His father then carries him off to Gokula (or Goshen, the eastern side of 
Lower Egypt), which is represented as a country place near Mathura. On 
finding that the child has escaped, the tyrant makes a slaughter of infant 
children. A variety of puerile fables suited to the Hindu taste follow, 
showing how Krishnah was subject to his reputed mother, and how he 
reproved her. Being now thought to be the son of a shepherd, Krishnah 
plays in the wilderness, and is assaulted by the various fiends, and overcomes 
them all. This temptation winds up with the overthrow of the great serpent, 
upon whose head, ' assuming the weight of the three worlds, he treads.' 
Even in the strange recital of Krishnah's sports with the cowherdesses, 
threads of allusions to the Gospels are not wanting. Krishnah is con- 
tinually manifesting his divinity, and yet disclaiming it. He goes to an 
Indian fig-tree and utters a sort of parable, saying, Blessed are those that 
bear pain themselves and show kindness to others. In another place he 
says that those who love him shall never suffer death. He proceeds to 
abolish the worship of Indra, the God of the air, and to invite his followers 
to worship a mountain. He directs those about him to close their eyes, and 
issues from the interior of the mountain with a ' face like the moon and 
wearing a diadem.' In this there seems to be an allusion to the Trans- 
figuration. Then follows a scene suited to Hindu taste. Indra rains down 
a deluge, and Krishnah defends the inhabitants of Braj by supporting the 
mountain on his finger, and he is then hailed as the God of Gods. Krishnah 
now resolves on returning from the country to the city of the tyrant king. 
He is followed by a multitude of women and by the cowherds. He enters 
the city in royal apparel. He is met by a deformed woman, who anoints 
him with sandalwood oil. On this Krishnah makes her straight and 
beautiful, and promises that his regard for her shall be perpetual ; on which 
her good fortune is celebrated by all the people of the place. In the account 
of this miracle the narratives in Mark xiv 3 and Luke xiii 11 are blended. 
It may be as well to mention here another miracle, which is mentioned in the 
Maha Bharata. Krishnah is there said to have restored the son of a widow 
to life : ' And Krishnah laid hold of the dead man's hand and said, Arise, 

and by the will of the Almighty the dead man immediately arose.' A 

great army of barbarians is assembled by a distant king to destroy the 

holy city of Mathura Krishnah then transports the city and his disciples 

to Dwarka, which is built in the sea. This appears to be a distorted account 
of tJw siege of Jerusalem and the flight of tlie Christians. Krishnah now 


returns to Mathura and combats with the barbarians ; flies from their chief, 
and is pursued into a cave of the White Mountains, where there is a man 
sleeping, covered with a silken robe, apparently dead. This man arises 
from sleep and consumes the pursuer of Krishnah. In this account of the 
cave there are evident allusions to the burial and resurrection of Christ ; and 
in a following chapter there is an account of the descent of Krishnah into 

Hades and his recovery of certain persons from the dead At the great 

sacrifice performed by Yudhishthira the task which devolves on Krishnah 

is that of washing the feet of those present. One person alone is said to 
have been dissatisfied, and that is Duryodhana, who is generally regarded 
as an incarnation of the Evil Spirit, and who, like Iscariot, here carries the 

bag, and acts as treasurer It must be admitted, then, that there are 

most remarkable coincidences between the history of Krishnah and that of 
Christ. This being the case, and there being proof positive that Christianity 
was introduced into Judea at an epoch when there is good reason to suppose 
the episodes which refer to Krishnah were inserted in the Maha Bharata, 
the obvious inference is that the Brahmans took from the Gospel such things 
as suited them, and so added preeminent beauties to their national epic, 
which otherwise would in no respect have risen above such poems as the 
Shahnamah of the Persians." 1 

As to the authorship of this criticism we can only speculate. 
In an allusion to the doctrine of the Bhagavat Glta the writer 
expresses himself as " willing to admit " that " the Gita is the most 
sublime poem that ever came from an uninspired pen"; thus taking 
up the position of ordinary orthodoxy, which presupposes the super- 
natural origin of the Christian system, and prejudges every such 
question as we are now considering. This is the standing trouble 
with English scholarship. Even Professor Miiller, who has produced 
an Introduction to the Science of Beligion, is found writing to a 
correspondent in terms which seemingly imply at once belief in 
Christian supernaturalism and a fear that the discussion of certain 
questions in comparative mythology may damage the faith. " Even 
supposing," he writes, " some or many of the doctrines of Christianity 
were found in other religions also (and they certainly are), does that 
make them less true ? Does a sailor trust his own compass less 
because it can be proved that the Ghinese had a compass before we 
had it?" And again: "These questions regarding the similarities 
between the Christian and any other religions are very difficult to 
treat, and unless they are handled carefully much harm may be done." 2 
From scholarship of this kind (though, as it happens, Miiller finally 
opposes the theory of Christian derivation) one turns perforce to 
that of the continent. 

1 Athenceum, as cited, pp. 168-9. 

2 Letters to C. A. Elflein, printed at end of a pamphlet by the latter entitled Buddha, 
Krishna, and Christ, 


Weber, who refers to the Athenceum critic's argument in his study 
on the " Geburtsfest," emphatically distinguishes between what he 
thinks plausible and what seems to him extravagant, 1 though the 
argument in question goes to support some of his own positions. 
The identifications of the names Yasoda, Yusef, and Vasudev, Gokula 
and Goshen, he rightly derides as being " a la P. Giorgi "; and he 
mentions that the stories of the woman's oblation and forgiveness, 
and also that of the raising of the widow's dead son, are not from 
the Mahabharata at all, but from the Jaimini-Bharata, a work of 
the Purana order 2 — a point which, of course, would not essentially 
affect the argument. On the main question he sums up as 
follows : — 

" If wo could so construe these words that they should harmonize with the 
view of Kleuker " [before quoted] " we might contentedly accept them. If, 
however, they are to be understood as meaning that the history of Krishna 
in the lump (ilberhaupt) was first taken from the ' Gospel history ' (and 
indeed the author seems not disinclined to that view), then we cannot 
endorse them." 3 

That is to say, the theory of the Christian origin of the general 
Krishna legend is rejected by Weber, the most important supporter 
of the view that some details in that legend have so originated. 
And not only is this rejection overwhelmingly justified, as we shall 
see, by the whole mass of the evidence, earlier and later, but so far 
as I am aware no Sanskrit scholar of any eminence has ever put 
his name to the view maintained by the anonymous writer in the 
Athenceum. Even Mr. Wheeler, who believes all the Gospels "and 
more," does not go to these lengths. He is more guarded even 
where he suggests similar notions. 

"The account of Raja Kansa," he obsorves, "is supposed by many to have 
been borrowed from the Gospel account of King Horod. Whether this be 
tho case or not, it is certain that most of the details are mythical, and 
inserted for the purpose of ennobling the birth of Krishna " i — 

— it being Mr. Wheeler's opinion that the story of Krishna as a 
whole has a personal and historic basis. He further holds that 
11 the grounds upon which Krishna seems to have forgiven the sins 
of the tailor " [who made clothes for his companions] " seem to 
form a travestie of Christianity"; 5 and, like the writer in the 
Athenceum and earlier pietists, he thinks that the Gospel stories of 
the bowed woman and the spikenard " seem to have been thrown 

1 He puts a " sic!" after the spelling Yashoda in quoting the passago, and another after 
the word " inserted " in the phrase " appears to have heen inserted from that word." 

2 Ueber die Krishnajanmdslttami, as cited, p. 315, n. 

8 Id. p. 316. 4 History of India, i, 464, note. « Id. p. 471, n. 


together Id bhe Legend of Kuhja." 1 On bhe other hand, however, he 
conceives bhat bhe Hindus may have invented Borne things for them 

aolvoa : — 

" Kriihna'i triumph oysr bhe great Mrpent ECaliya wm *t one time 
luppoted (<> be borrowed from bha briumph ol Ohriit over Setftn, There 
eppeeri, howtvtr, bo be no ellueion whatever bo bhe bruising «»f bhe Berpent'i 
hoad in thu mdm in wiudi It li understood bj Christian ooxxunsntators."' 

§ 6. The ('rut nil Disproof. 

Qnsupported as are bhe Christian theories of bhe Late origin of 
the Krishna Legend, It is necessary bo eite bhe evidenoe whloh repels 
bhem. The point, indeed, might be held as Bettled onoe for all by 
bhe evidenoe of Patanjali's MahabhAshya or Great Commentary," 
a grammatical work based on previous ones, and dating from tho 
hocoiuI oentnry B.C., bnt first made in part aooessible bo European 
soholars I >y bhe Benares edition of L872. The evidenoe of bhe 
Mahabhashya is thus summed up by bhe Learned Professor Bhan- 
darkar of Bombay, after discussion of bhe passages on which ho 
founds, as dearly proving: — 

1st.. That bhe stories of bhe death of Kansa and bhe subjugation 
of Ball were popular and ourrent in Patanjali's time. 

'2nd. That Krishna or Vasudeva was mentioned in bhe story as 
having killed E£ansa. 

"8rd. That suoh stories formed bhe Bubjeots of dramatic repre- 
sentations, its Puranio stories arc still popularly represented on the 

1 1 ii id u stage. 

"4th. That the event of Cansa's death at the hands of Krishna 
was In Patanjali's time believed bo have ooourred at a very remote 

Othor passages, Profossor Bhandarkar thinks, would appear to 

bo quoted from an existing poem OH Krishna"; and, in liis opinion, 
1 Not only was the story ol* Krishna and Kausa current and popular 
iu Patanjali's time, but it appears clearly that the former was 

worshipped as a God." And bhe Professor oonoludes bhat If bhe 

stories of Krishna and Ball, and others which 1 shall notice here- 
after, were current and popular in bhe seoond century B.O., some 
suoh works as bhe Barivansa and bhe Puranas must have existed 


Disoussing bhe Mahabhashya on its publication (some years after 

1 1,1. v. -170, ;/. ■ 1,1. P. tflS. a. 

■ Art. "AUuiioni t<» ECriibse la PataojaU'i Mababntibya,' 1 to bhe Indian dntumarVt 

Moiubuy, vol. ill (1H71), l» Lfl 


his paper on the Birth-festival), Weber had already 1 conceded that 
it pointed not only almost beyond doubt to a pre-existing poetic 
compilation of the Mahabharata Sagas, but to the ancient existence 
of the Kansa myth. Kansa, he pointed out, figured in regard to 
Bali, in the passages quoted in the Mahabhashya, as a demon, and 
his " enmity towards Krishna equally assumed a mythical character, 
into which also the different colours of their followers (the ' black 
ones ' are then also those of Kansa ? though Krishna himself 
signifies ' black '!) would seem to enter. Or," the Professor goes on, 
1 could there be thereby signified some Indian battles between 
Aryans and the aborigines occupying India before them?" In 
another place, 2 alluding to the contention of Dr. Burnell 3 that 
" much in the modern philosophical schools of India comes from 
some form of Christianity derived from Persia," Professor Weber 
pointed out that " quite recently, through the publication of the 
Mahabhashya, a much older existence is proved for the Krishna 
cultus than had previously seemed admissible." Finally, in com- 
menting 4 on the argument of Bhandarkar, Weber allows that the 
passages cited by the scholar from Patanjali are " quite conclusive 
and very welcome " as to an intermediate form of Krishna- worship ; 
though he disputes the point as to the early existence of literature 
of the Purana order — a point with which we are not here specially 
concerned — and goes on to contend that the passages in question 
" do not interfere at all with the opinion of those who maintain, on 
quite reasonable grounds," that the later development of Krishnaism 
" has been influenced to a certain degree by an acquaintance with the 
doctrines, legends, and symbols of the early Christians ; or even 
with the opinion of those who are inclined to find in the Bhaga- 
vadgita traces of the Bible ; for though I for my part am as yet not 
convinced at all in this respect, the age of the Bhagavadgita is still 
so uncertain that these speculations are at least not shackled by any 
chronological obstacles." 

I know of no recent expert opinion which refuses to go at least 
as far as Weber does here. His persistent contention as to the 
presence of some Christian elements in the Krishna cult I will 
discuss later ; but in the meantime it is settled that the most 
conservative Sanskrit scholarship on the continent not only admits 
but insists on the pre-Christian character of the Krishna mythus, 

1 Indische Studien, xiii (1873), pp. 354-5, 357. 

2 Notice of vol. iv of Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, 1873, reprinted in Weber's 
Indische Streifen, iii, 190-1. 

3 Academy, June 14th, 1873. 

4 In the Indian Antiquary, August, 1875=iv, 246. 


and of such an important quasi-Christian element in it as the story 
of Kansa, which had so zealously been claimed (and that with 
Weber's consent in former years) as an adaptation from the Herod 
story in the Christian Gospel. 

§ 7. Antiquity of Krishnaism. 

The proof of the pre-Christian antiquity of the Krishna cult, 
however, does not rest merely on the text of the Mahabhashya, or 
the conclusions of scholars in regard to that. The extravagance of 
the orthodox Christian argument was apparent — it was rejected, we 
have seen, by Weber — before the passages in the Mahabhashya were 
brought forward. There have long been known at least three inscrip- 
tions, in addition to at least one other literary allusion, which prove 
Krishnaism to have flourished long before the period at which the 
Christians represent it to have been concocted from the Gospels. 

1. The Bhitari pillar inscription, transcribed and translated by 
Dr. W. H. Mill, 1 and dating from, probably, the second century of 
our era, proves Krishna to be then an important deity. The Krishna 
passage runs, in Dr. Mill's translation : — " May he who is like 
Krishna still obeying his mother Devaki, after his foes are vanquished, 
he of golden rays, with mercy protect this my design." This trans- 
lation Lassen 2 corrects, reading thus : — " Like the conqueror of his 
enemies, Krishna encircled with golden rays, who honours Devaki, 
may he maintain his purpose "; and explaining that the words are 
to be attributed to the king named in the inscription (Kumaragupta), 
and not to the artist who carved it, as Dr. Mill supposed. "As in 
the time to which this inscription belongs," Lassen further remarks, 
" human princes were compared with Gods, Krishna is here repre- 
sented as a divine being, though not as one of the highest Gods." 
Dr. Mill, on the other hand, holds Krishna to be understood as " the 
supreme Bhagavat " referred to in other parts of the inscription. 
However this may be, the cultus is proved to have existed long 
before the arrival of Christian influences. 

2. Two fragmentary inscriptions discovered in 1854 by Mr. E. C. 
Bayley, 3 of the Indian Civil Service, equally point to the early 
deification of Krishna. One has the words " Krishnayasasa arama " 
in Aryan Pali letters ; the other " Krishnayasasya arama medangisya." 
The first two words mean " The Garden of Krishnayasas," this name 
meaning " the glory of Krishna "; and Mr. Bayley thinks that 

1 In the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, January, 1837, PP. 1-17. 

2 Indische Alter thumskunde, ii (1849), p. 1108, note. 

3 Journal of Asiatic Society, xxiii, 57. 


" medangisy a, =" corpulent, is some wag's addition to the original 
inscription. As to the date, Mr. Bayley writes : — " The form of the 
Indian letters had already led me to assign them roughly to the first 
century A.D. 1 On showing them, however, to Major A. Cunningham, 
he kindly pointed out that the foot strokes of the Aryan letters ally 
them to those on the coins of ' Pakores '; and he therefore would 
place them more accurately in the first half of the second century A.D. 
at the earliest." Major Cunningham, it will be remembered, is one 
of those who see imitation of Christianity in the Krishna legends, 
so his dating is not likely to be over early. In any case, Mr. Bayley 
admits that the inscriptions " would seem to indicate the admission 
of Krishna into the Hindu Pantheon at the period" when they 
were cut. " If, however," he adds, " this be eventually established, 
it by no means follows that the name was applied to the same deity 
as at present, still less that he was worshipped in the same manner." 
It is not very clear what Mr. Bayley means by "the same deity"; 
or whether he would admit the God of the Jews to be the same 
deity as the Father of Jesus Christ, as worshipped by Archdeacon 
Farrar. But if he merely means to say that the Hindu conception 
of Krishna, like his ritual, might be modified after centuries, his 
proposition may readily be accepted. 

3. The Buddal pillar inscription, translated by Wilkins, 2 to which 
I have observed no allusion in recent writers on Krishnaism, serves 
equally to prove the early existence of a legend of a divine Krishna 
born of Devakl and nursed by Yasoda. It contains the passage, allud- 
ing to a distinguished lady or princess : — " She, like another Devaki, 
bore unto him a son of high renown, who resembled the adopted of 
Yasodha and husband of Lakshmi " — the Goddess Lakshmi being 
here identified with Krishna's bride. This inscription was dated by 
Wilkins "shortly B.C.," and by Sir William Jones 67 C.E. I have 
not ascertained how it is placed by later scholars ; but in any case 
it must long antedate the periods assigned by Weber and the 
Athenaum critic to the arrival of the Christian influences which 
are supposed to have affected later Krishnaism. 

4. In the Khandogya Upanishad, a document admittedly older 
than our era, there occurs 8 this passage : — " Ghora Angirasa, after 
having communicated this (view of the sacrifice) to Krishna, the 

1 By "century a.d." Mr. Bayley means "century after Christ." "First century anno 
domini," a form constantly used by academic writers, is nonsense. In this paper I use 
"c.e." to signify " Christian era," as " b.c." signifies "before Christ." This, or the use of 
the form " a.c," is surely the reasonable course. 

2 Asiatic Researches, i, 131. 

3 iii, 17, 6 ; Muller's trans., Sacred Books of the East, i, 52. 


son of Devaki — and he never thirsted again (after other know- 
ledge) — said," etc. On this passage Muller comments : — 

" The curious coincidence between Krishna Devakiputra, here mentioned 
as a pupil of Ghora Angirasa, and the famous Krishna, the son of Devaki, 
was first pointed out by Colebrooke, Miscell. Essays, ii, 117. Whether it 
is more than a coincidence it is difficult to say. Certainly we can build no 
other conclusions on it than those indicated by Colebrooke, that new fables 
may have been constructed, elevating this personage to the rank of a God. 
We know absolutely nothing of the old Krishna Devakiputra except his 
having been a pupil of Ghora Angirasa, nor does there seem to have been 
any attempt made by later Brahmans to connect their divine Krishna, the 
son of Vasudeva, with the Krishna Devakiputra of our Upanishad. This is 
all the more remarkable because the author of the Sandilya-sutras, for 
instance, who is very anxious to found a srauta authority for the worship 
of Krishna Vasudeva as the supreme deity, had to be satisfied with quoting 

modern compilations Professor Weber has treated these questions 

very fully, but it is not quite clear to me whether he wishes to go beyond 
Colebrooke, and to admit more than a similarity of name between the pupil 
of Ghora Angirasa and the friend of the Gopis." 

Weber, it may be noted in passing, does " admit more than a 
similarity of name ": in his treatise on the Birth Festival 1 he founds 
on the Upanishad reference as indicating one of the stages in the 
development of Krishnaism. And as Muller does not dispute in the 
least the antiquity and authenticity of that reference, but only queries 
"coincidence," it may be taken as pretty certain that we have here 
one more trace of the existence of the Krishna legend long before 
the Christian era. There is nothing in the least remarkable in the 
fact of the passage not being cited by a writer who wanted texts on 
the status of Krishna as " the supreme deity," because the passage 
clearly does not so present Krishna. But it is no part of our case 
to make out that Krishna was widely worshipped as " the supreme 
deity " before our era ; on the contrary, the evidence mostly goes to 
show that he attained his eminence, or at least his Brahmanical 
status, later. The point is that his name and story were current 
in India long before the Christian legends, as such, were heard of ; 
and the series of mutually supporting testimonies puts this beyond 

§ 8. Invalid Evidence. 

It does not seem likely that the force of the foregoing evidence 
will be seriously disputed. At the same time, it is necessary to 
point out that some of the data relied on by some scholars, and in 
particular by Lassen, to prove the early existence of Krishnaism will 

1 As cited, p. 316. 


not by themselves support that conclusion. Lassen, who identifies 
Krishna with the Indian Hercules spoken of by Megasthenes, puts 
his case thus : — 

" Megasthenes, whose account of ancient India is the weightiest because 

the oldest of all those left to us by foreigners, has mentioned [the] 

connection of Krishna with the Pandavas, and his remarks deserve close 

attention as giving a historical foothold in regard to the vogue of the 

worship of Krishna. His statement is as follows: He" [i.e., the Indian 
Hercules] " excelled all men in strength of body and spirit ; he had purged 
the whole earth and the sea of evil, and founded many cities ; of his many 
wives was born only one daughter, UavSaiv, Pandaia, but many sons, 
among whom he divided all India, making them kings, whose descendants 
reigned through many generations and did famous deeds ; some of their 
kingdoms stood even to the time when Alexander invaded India. After his 
death, divine honours had been paid him. (Diodor. ii, 39. Arrian, Ind. 8.) 
That we are entitled to take this Hercules for Krishna appears from the fact 
that he was specially honoured by the people of Surasena. (Ind. viii, 5.) 1 

" We may from this passage conclude with certainty that in the time of 
Megasthenes Krishna was honoured as one of the highest of the Gods, and 
precisely in the character of Vishnu, who incarnated himself when the 
transgressions of the world began to overflow, and wiped them out. When 
Megasthenes describes him as bearing a club, there becomes apparent that 
writer's exact acquaintance with Indian matters, for Vishnu also carries a 
club (hence his name of Gadddhara) . That he also, like Hercules, wore a 
lion's hide, does not correspond to Krishna, and might seem to impute an 
inclination to make out an identity between the Greek and the Indian hero. 
Probably Megasthenes was misled by the fact that in Sanskrit the word lion 
is used to indicate a pre-eminent excellence in men, and specially in warriors. 3 
The account of Megasthenes further corresponds with the Indian Saga in 
respect that there many wives and sons are ascribed to Krishna (16,000 wives 
and 180,000 sons. See Vishnu Purana, pp. 440, 591). Of cities founded by 
him, indeed, we know only Dvaraka ; and Palibothra had another founder. 
Clearly, however, Pandaia is exactly the name of Pandava, especially when 
we compare the form Pandavya ; and in that connection my previous 
conclusion seems to be irrefragable, that Megasthenes has signified by the 
daughter of Krishna the sister, from whom the series of Pandava Kings 
are descended." 3 

Now, it is sufficiently plain on the face of this exposition that 
the identification of Krishna with the Indian Hercules of Megas- 
thenes is imperfect. It leaves, says Tiele, "much to be desired." 4 

1 Note by Lassen. Besides Mathura, Megasthenes named another city of the Surasenes, 
KXetcr6/3opa, which Pliny (Hist. Nat. vi, 22) calls Carisobara or Cyrisoborea or Chrysobora, 
and which Von Bohlen (Altes Indien, i, 233) with apparent justice reads as Krishna-Pura, 
city of Krishna. Ptoleinaios names Mathura the city of the Gods. 

2 Lassen here assumes that Megasthenes knew Sanscrit, which is not at all certain. 
More probably he needed interpreters, and in talk between these and the Brahmans the 
poetic epithet " lion " would hardly be used. It would appear from a remark of Arrian 
(Exped. Alex, vi, 30) that only one Macedonian in Alexander's train learned Persian, so 
little were the Greeks disposed to master foreign languages. In Alexander's expedition 
communications seem at times to have been filtered through three interpreters. 

3 Indische Alterthumskunde, i (1847), 647-9. 4 Outlines, p. 148. 


In point of fact, a much more satisfactory identification of the 
Indian Hercules of Megasthenes lay ready to Lassen's hand in 
Wilson's introduction to his translation of the Vishnu Purana. 
11 The Hercules of the Greek writers," says that sound scholar, " was 
indubitably the Bala Eama of the Hindus ; and their notices of 
Mathura on the Jumna, and of the kingdom of the Suraseni and the 
Pandaean country, evidence the prior currency of the traditions which 
constitute the argument of the Mahabharata, and which are con- 
stantly repeated in the Puranas, relating to the Pandava and Yadava 
races, to Krishna and his contemporary heroes, and to the dynasties 
of the solar and lunar heroes." 1 M. Barth, it is true, has tacitly 
accepted Lassen's view ; 2 but does not do so with any emphasis, and 
points out that it has been contested by Weber, 3 who, regarding 
Megasthenes' testimony as of uncertain value in any case, declines 
to accept the reading of Kleisobora as Krishnapura, and considers 
Wilson's theory of Bala Eama more reasonable. And M. Senart, 
whose masterly Essay on the Legend of Buddha has put him in the 
front rank of Indianists and mythologists, very emphatically combats 
Lassen's position : — 

" In [Megasthenes'] Hercules M. Lassen finds Vishnu : it would be 
infinitely more vraisemblable, even in respect of the association with 
Krishna, to see in him Bala Rama, for whom his club would constitute, 
in the eyes of a Greek, an affinity, the more striking because it was exterior, 
with the son of Alcmena. It is necessary, I think, to accept the same 
synonymy for the Hercules spoken of by Megasthenes, who seems simply to 
have confounded under this one name legends appertaining to several of the 
avatars of Vishnu ; it is, in my opinion, an error of over-precision to identify, 
as M. Lassen has done, that Hercules with Krishna." 4 

When we glance at the description of Bala Kama as he figures 
in Indian effigies, the view of Wilson and Senart seems sufficiently 
established : — 

"Bala Rama although a warrior, may from his attributes be esteemed 

a benefactor of mankind ; for he bears a plough, and a pestle for beating 
rice ; and he has epithets derived from the names of these implements — viz., 
Halayudha, meaning plough-armed, and Musali, as bearing the musal, or 
rice-beater. His name, Bala, means strength ; and the beneficent attributes 
here noticed are by some called a ploughshare for hooking his enemies, and a 
club for destroying them ; and being sometimes seen with a lion's skin over 
his shoulders, such statues have been thought to resemble, and allude to, 
those of the Theban Hercules and their legends." (Note. " The pestle is of 

1 Trans, of Vishnu Purana, 1840, pref. pp. vi, vii. 

2 Beligions of India, p. 163. 

3 Itidische Studien, ii, 409 (1853). 

i Essai sur la Legende du Buddha, 2e ed. p. 339, n. 


hard wood, about four feet long, and two inches in diameter, with the ends 
tipped or ferrelled with iron, to prevent their splitting or wearing.") 1 

We shall have to consider further hereafter the mythological 
significance of Bala Rama and the other two Ramas. In the 
meantime, beyond noting how precisely the former corresponds 
with the Hercules of Megasthenes, it will suffice to say that one of 
the other Ramas, closely connected with Krishna, corresponds with 
the Hercules figure so far as to support strongly M. Senart's 
hypothesis of a combination of various personages in the Greek's 
conception : — 

" It is Rama Chandra, however, who is the favourite subject of heroic and 
amatory poetics : he is described ' of ample shoulders, brawny arms, extending 
to the knee ; neck, shell-formed ; chest, circular and full, with auspicious 
marks ; body, hyacinthine ; with eyes and lips of sanguine hue ; the lord of 
the world ; a moiety of Vishnu himself ; the source of joy to Ikshwaku's 

race.' He is also called blue-bodied, an appellation of Krishna, as well 

as of the prototype of both — Vishnu." 2 

In fine, then, we are not entitled to say with Lassen that 
Megasthenes clearly shows the worship of Krishna to have attained 
the highest eminence in India three hundred years before our era ; 
but what is certain is that the whole group of the legends with which 
Krishna is connected had at that date already a high religious 
standing ; and that an important Krishna cultus, resting on these, 
existed before and spread through India after that period, but 
certainly flourished long before the advent of Christian influences. 

§ 9. Weber's Theory. 

The early vogue of Krishna-worship being thus amply proved, it 
remains to consider the argument, so long persisted in by Professor 
Weber, as to the derivation of certain parts of Krishnaism from 
Christianity, keeping in view at the same time, of course, the more 
extensive claims made by the partizans of Christianity. With these 
Professor Weber is not to be identified : there is no reason to doubt 
that, even if he be mistaken, he is perfectly disinterested in his 
whole treatment of the subject. This is not to say, of course, that 
he has approached it from the first in a perfectly scientific frame 
of mind. It is only fair to mention that besides seeing Christian 
elements in Krishnaism he finds Homeric elements in the Ramayana, 
the next great Hindu epic after the Mahabharata. That theory, 

1 Moor's Hindu Pantheon, p. 194. Diodorus tells (ii, 39) that iu India Hercules has the 
club and lion's skin as among the Greeks. 
- Moor's Hindu Pantheon, p. 195. 


however, seems to have met with very small acceptance among 
Indianists, 1 and need not be here discussed, any more than his old 
argument as to the influence of Greek art on India after Alexander, 
which stands on a different footing. One passage will serve to 
show his general position, which includes a frank avowal that 
there is evidence of Hindu influence on Christianity just about the 
time at which he thinks Christianity influenced Krishnaism : — 

" Still more deep [than the Grecian] has been the influence of Christianity, 
also chiefly introduced by way of Alexandria, to which is to be attributed 
the idea of a personal, individual, universal God ; and the idea of Faith, 
which is not to be found in India before this time, but which from this 
epoch forms a common type of all Hindu sects. In the worship of Krishna, 
an ancient hero, which now takes an entirely new form, even the name of 
Christ seems to stand in direct connection with it, and several legends of 
Christ, as well as of his mother the Divine Virgin, are transferred to him. — 
In an opposite manner, Hindu philosophy too exercised a decided influence 
upon the formation of several of the Gnostic sects then rising, more especially 
in Alexandria. The Manichaean system of religion in Persia is very evidently 
indebted to Buddhistical conceptions, as the Buddhists in the freshness of 
their religious zeal, carried on by their principle of universalism, had early 
sent their missionaries beyond Asia. The great resemblance which the 
Christian ceremonial and rites (which were forming just at that time) show 
to the Buddhistic in many respects, can be best explained by the influence 
of the latter, being often too marked for it to be an independent production 
of each faith ; compare the worship of relics, the architecture of church 
towers (with the Buddhistic Topes), the monastic system of monks and nuns, 
celibacy, the tonsure, confession, rosaries, bells, etc." 2 

It is not likely that, after the banter he has bestowed in Krishna's 
Gebiirtsfest on the Eather Giorgi order of etymology, Weber would 
latterly have adhered to the above suggestion about the name of 
Christ ; or that he would give a moment's countenance to the 
argument of the Athenceum critic that the name Krishna, = black, 
might mean " anointed " because the root might mean " to tinge." 
Apart from that, the argument for a reciprocal action of the two 
religions is on the face of it plausible enough ; and it becomes 
necessary to go into the details. 

In the above extract Weber indicates only two respects in 
which Krishnaism was in his opinion modified by Christianity — the 
doctrines, namely, of " a personal, universal God," and of Faith." 
In his treatise on the Krishna Birth-Festival he posits a number of 

1 See it ably criticized in K. T. Telang's Was the Bdmdyana copied from Homer ? 
Bombay, 1873. __ , , 

2 Modern Investigations of Ancient India. A Lecture delivered in Berlin, March 4, 
1854, by Professor A. Weber. Translated by Fanny Metcalfe, 1857, pp. 25-6. {Indiscne 
Skizzen, p. 28.) 


concrete details : in particular, the Birth Festival itself ; the repre- 
sentation of Krishna as a child suckled by his mother ; the curious 
item that, at the time of Krishna's birth, his foster-father Nanda 
goes with his wife Yasoda to Mathura " to pay his taxes" (a detail 
not noted by the Athenaum critic) ; the representation of the babe 
as laid in a manger ; the attempted killing by Kansa ; the " massacre 
of the innocents"; the carrying of the child across the river (as in 
the Christian " Christophoros " legend) ; the miraculous doings of 
the child and the healing virtue of his bath water (as in the Apoc- 
ryphal Gospels) ; the raising of the bereaved mother's dead son, 
the straightening of the crooked woman ; her pouring ointment over 
Krishna ; and the sin-removing power of his regard. 1 These concrete 
details I will first deal with. 

§ 10. Pagan Parallels. 

A most important admission, it will be remembered, has already 
been made by Professor Weber in regard to the story of King Kansa ; 
which he admits to be now proved a pre-Christian myth. So 
important, indeed, is that withdrawal, that but for the Professor's 
later restatement we might have surmised him to have lost con- 
fidence in his whole position, of which, it would seem, the central 
citadel has fallen. If the story of Kansa be admittedly a pre- 
Christian myth, and the Christian Herod-story be thus admittedly 
a redaction of an old Eastern myth, what becomes of the pre- 
sumption of Indian imitation of other Christian stories which, on 
the face of them, are just as likely to be mythical as the story of 
Herod and the massacre of the innocents ? Apparently Weber has 
never inquired how the Christian stories in general originated. His 
argument simply assumes that the Gospel stories (whether true or 
not, he does not say) came into circulation at the foundation of 
Christianity, and so became accessible to the world. But as to the 
source of these stories — as to how these particular miraculous 
narratives came to be told in connection with Jesus — he makes 
(save on one point) no inquiry, and apparently feels no difficulty ; 
though to a scientific eye, one would think, the clearing-up in some 
way of the causation of the Christian legends is as necessary as the 
explaining how they are duplicated in Krishnaism. 

The one exception in Weber's investigation is his allusion to the 
view that the representation of the Virgin Mary as either suckling 
or clasping the infant Jesus may have been borrowed from the 

1 Work cited, pp. 328-9. 


Egyptian statues or representations of Isis and Horus. For citing 
this suggestion from previous writers he has been angrily accused 
by Mr. Growse, a Roman Catholic Anglo-Indian, of ' a wanton 
desire to give offence"; 1 an imputation which the scholar has 
indignantly and justly resented. 2 Mr. Growse's pretext for his 
splenetic charge was the claim, cited by Weber himself from 
De Rossi, that the earliest representations of the Madonna in the 
Roman catacombs, recently brought to light, follow a classic and 
not an Egyptian type. Says De Rossi : — 

" The paintings of our subterranean cemeteries offer us the first images of 
the Holy Virgin with her divine child ; and they are much more numerous 
and more ancient than is indicated by the works hitherto [before 1863] 
published on the Catacombs of Rome. I have chosen four, which seem to 
me to be as the models of the different types and of the different periods 
which one meets from the first centuries to about the time of Constantine." 
And again (a passage which Weber does not cite) : " The frescoes of our 
illustrations and the monuments cited by me here, demonstrate that in the 
most ancient works of Christian art the Virgin holding her child is figured 
independently of the Magi and of any historic scene." 3 

Now, even if it be decided that the earliest " Madonnas " in the 
Catacombs have a classic rather than an Egyptian cast, nothing 
would be proved against the Egyptian derivation of the cult of the 
Virgin and Child. It does not occur to Commendatore De Rossi, 
of course, to question whether these early Madonnas were really 
Christian — whether they did not represent the almost universal 
vogue of the worship of a child-nursing Goddess apart from Chris- 
tianity. There is no artistic or documentary evidence whatever of 
Christian Madonna- worship in the first century; and De Rossi's 
"premiers sidcles," and his final claim that his series of images 
" goes back to the disciples of the apostles," leave matters very much 
in the vague. There might indeed be Christian, but there were 
certainly non-Christian, " Madonnas " of a " classic " cast before 
the time at which the absolute images of Isis were transferred to 
Christian churches, and black images of Mary and Jesus were made 
in imitation of them. 4 The very name Iacchos, one of the special 
titles of Dionysos, originally meant a sucking infant ; and in the 
myths he is either suckled by or actually the child of Demeter, 6 

1 Indian Antiquary, iii, 300. 2 Id. iv, 251. 

3 Images de la T. S. Vierge dans les Cataconibes de Borne, Rome, 1863, pp. 6-7, 21. 

4 See above, p. 142. Cp. Sirnrock, Handbuch der deutschen Mythologie, 6te Aufl. pp. 314, 
381 ; and Maury, Ligendes Pieuses du Moyen Age, 1843, p. 38. 

5 Bochart, Geographia Sacra, ed. 1674, pp. 480-1 (.Chanaan, 1. i. c. 18); Suidas, s.v. 
''Iclkxos. Cp. Preller, Griech. Myth. 2nd ed. i, 614. So the Latin Liber. As to the original 
separateness of the cult of Iacchos see Rohde, Psyche, 4te Aufl. i, 284-5. 

6 Diodorus Siculus, iii, 62; Plutarch, Julius Ccesar, c. ix; Strabo, b. in, c. in, 5 lb. 
Otherwise Dionysos is the child of Persephone— Kore, "the Maiden," who, like her mother, 
was ." the Virgin." Diodorus, iii, 64 ; iv, 4. 


" The Earth Mother," or Ceres Mammosa, 1 " the many-breasted,'* 
who in turn bore in Greece the name Kovporp6<f>os* the boy-rearer. 
In ancient art she, or a specific Goddess abstracted from the 
primeval concept of the All-Mother, 3 is often represented as suckling 
the Babe-God, especially on Athenian coins. 4 Ino Leucothea, called 
Mater Matuta by the Romans, mother of Melicerta or Palaemon 
(=Melkarth and Baal-Ammon), 5 the Roman Portumnus, was 
represented with her child in her arms, 6 whence a presumption that 
among the Semites Melkarth and Baal-Ammon were represented as 
carried infants. Figures of a " Divine Mother holding her child in 
her arms " are found in the remains of pre-Roman Carthage, 7 and 
rude images of the sort are found among the most ancient terra- 
cotta figurines of Cyprus. 8 Gaia, again, was sculptured holding the 
infant Dionysos or Erichthonios, 9 and (severally) the nymphs Neda 
and GEnoe were figured as carrying the babe Zeus. 10 The type, in 
fact, is universal, and probably derives from a primitive presentment 
in the (or a) matriarchal period, in which " the Mother " is the chief 
symbol of the reproductive principle. 11 

Nor was the appellation of " The Virgin " any more unfamiliar 
before than after Christianity in connection with Madonna-worship. 
To begin with, Virgin-births occur in many mythologies, savage and 
other ; 12 and the notion must have been familiar in early civilization. 
In Etruscan and Grseco-Roman statuary, Juno (Here), who was 
fabled to become a virgin anew each year, 13 was represented as 
suckling a babe — Hercules or Dionysos. 14 Isis bears Horus 
virginally, being impregnated while hovering in the form of a 

1 Lucretius, iv, 1162. 

2 Pausanias, i, 22; Preller, GriecMsche Mythologie, i, 599. Leto had the same title. Id. 
p. 184, note 3. But it was given to Artemis, the most virginal Goddess of all. Pausanias, 
iv, 34. 

5 Cp. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Beligion, 2nd ed. 1908, p. 269, as 
to the concept of a Kourotrophos without other name, " an attribute become a personality." 

4 K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, Eng. trans, pp. 438-441 ; Winckelmann, Monuments Ine"dits, 
i, 28, 68, 71. 

s Cp. Cox, Mythology of the Aryan Nations, p. 326 ; and Brown, The Great Dionysiak 
Myth, i, 251 sq.; ii, 100. 

6 K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, pp. 493, 538. 

7 Babelon, Manual of Oriental Antiquities, Eng. tr. 1906, p. 267. 

8 Id. p. 280. 9 K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, p. 493. 

10 Pausanias, viii, 31, 47. 

11 Cp. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, pp. 261-273, 402. 

12 Cp. Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884. p. 200 (impregnation by the sun). 

13 Pausanias, ii, 38. This myth often recurs. Here bears Hephaistos " without having 
been united in love " (Hesiod, Theogony, 927) ; and in the same way bears Typhon (Homerid. 
Hymn to Apollo). So, in Rome, Juno was identified with the Virgo Coelestis (Preller, 
Bomische Mythologie, 1865, pp. 377, 752. Cp. Ettore Pais, Ancient Legends of Roman 
History, Eng. tr. 1906, p. 110). The idea is ubiquitous. Cybele, the mother of all the Gods, 
was also styled the Virgo Coelestis (Augustine, De Civitate Dei.ii, 4), and was revered as a 
virgin, though the mate as well as the mother of Jupiter, and " seized with a love without 
passion for Attis" (Julian, In Deorum Matrem, c. 4). Equally transparent was the 
mysticism which made Dimeter or Ceres, the earth mother, a virgin too. Cp. Miss 
Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 274. 

14 Preller's GriecMsche Mythologie, 2nd ed. i, 135; Pausanias, ix, 25; Muller, Ancient 
Art, pp. 430, 554. 


sparrow-hawk over the body of her slain husband. 1 On Roman 
coins, Venus, who also was identified with the Virgo Coelestis, 2 was 
represented both as carrying a child and as having one before her, 
with the sceptre and ball — a form adopted by Christian art. 3 There 
were abstract Divine Mothers, too, who could be called Virgins 
without any sense of anomaly, since there was no " male of the 
species." Maternity had thus an elemental significance apart from 
the thought of fatherhood. We know that in Rome in the time of 
the Republic a special worship was paid by matrons to the image of 
a nursing mother, Fortune giving suck to the Child Jupiter, and 
holding at the same time the Child Juno. 4 Similarly the Greeks 
had statues of the abstract Virgins Peace and Fortune, each carry- 
ing Wealth (Plutus) as a child in her arms. 5 For the rest, we know 
that in old Assyria or Chaldaea there was a popular worship of a 
child-bearing Goddess. It is agreed that the Goddess Alitta was 
represented by such images ; 6 and there are many specimens of 
similar ancient Eastern effigies of small size, which were evidently 
cherished by multitudes. In a case of " Miscellaneous Objects from 
Assyria and Babylonia," in the Assyrian basement of the British 
Museum, may be seen 7 old Chaldsean figures of this kind, one of 
which is described merely as a "female figure holding a child," 
while another female figure is unhesitatingly labelled "female deity," 
though the deity of the former is to the full as certain as that of the. 
latter. In another case of " Antiquities from Dali" upstairs, at the 
outer end of the Egyptian Hall, are (or were) a number of similar 
figures, in the labelling of which officialdom ventures so far as to 
write " Figure of Female or Aphrodite," " holding smaller figure or 
child." Beyond question these popular " Madonnas " of the East 
are much older than Christianity ; and it is even possible that they 
represent a Chaldaean cultus earlier than the Egyptian worship of 
Isis, though figures of the child-bearing Isis are traced to the earliest 
periods of Egyptian religion. 8 We find the idea common in the 
New World before the arrival of Christianity, 9 a circumstance point- 
ing to prehistoric derivation from Asia. 

1 Erman, Handbook of Egyptian 'Religion, Eng. tr. 1907, p. 34. 

2 K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, p. 474 ; Preller, Griechische Mythologie, i, 268 ; Firmicus, 
De Errore Prof an. Belig. iv. 

3 K. O. Muller, as last cited. 

4 " Is est hodie locus septus religiose propter Jovis pueri, qui lactens cum Junone Fortunes 
in gremio sedens, mammam adpetens, castissime colitur a matribus." Cicero, De Divina- 
tione, ii. 41. 5 Pausanias, i, 8 ; ix, 16 ; Muller, p. 547. 

6 Layard's Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, 1853, p. 477 ; Rawlinson's 
Herodotus, i, 257. See the figure reproduced also in Lundy's Monumental Christianity, 
p. 212. 7 Written in 1889. 

8 See Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Religion, as cited, p. 7. 

9 Lafitau, Mceurs des sauvages ameriquains, 1724, i, 246-7. Cp. Pagan Christs, Part IV, 
§ 4. 


This being so, the course of surmising a Christian origin for 
Indian effigies of Devaki nursing Krishna is plainly unscientific, 
since it passes over an obvious, near, and probable source for a 
remote and improbable one. To argue that India remained ignorant 
of or indifferent to all Asian presentments of child-nursing Goddesses 
for many centuries, and at length, when she had a highly- evolved 
religious system, administered by an exclusive priesthood, suddenly 
became enamoured of the Christian presentment of Mary and Jesus 
— this is to set aside all reasonable probability on no better pretext 
than a prejudice. Even if there were no old Asian cultus, no 
multitude of portable Asian images, of a child-bearing Goddess, the 
idea might obviously have been derived from the Isis-figures of 
Egypt before Christianity came into existence. Even from the 
engravings appended to his paper by Weber, it appears that other 
divine personages than Devaki and Krishna were figured as mother 
and child in Hindu art and mythology ; and the usage might 
perfectly well have prevailed in India before Krishnaism became 
anything like universal. In this connection Tiele, one of the sanest 
of hierologists, 1 passes an unanswerable criticism on Weber's 
argument in the Dutch Theologisch Tijdschrift : — 

"One of the weakest points of his [Weber's] demonstration seems to me 
to be that in which he compares the delineations of Krishna at the breast of 
his mother Devaki with Christian pictures of the Madonna lactans (the 
Madonna giving suck), and both with that of Isis and Horos. For in the 
first place it is not proved that the Indian representations are imitations of 
Christian models ; they might equally well be borrowed from the Egyptian, 
seeing that India was already in communication with Egypt before our era. 
The Horos sitting on the lotos was certainly borrowed by the Egyptians 
from Indian pictures ; and in return the Isis with the child Horos at her 
breast may well have been transported to India. Moreover, the Indian 
illustrations given by Weber, and equally the Christian, are of very late 
date ; and further, it is very doubtful whether they all represent Devaki and 
Krishna. [Note. — Under one of the four is inscribed the name Lakshmi. 
Another is held to stand for Lakshmi or Maya with Kamadeva. In both the 
Goddesses have by them a lotos, the emblem of Lakshmi. And a third 
gives the whole legend, Devaki and Yacodha each lying on her bed, the first 
strongly guarded, while the father of Krishna, under the protection of the 
serpent with seven heads, carries the child through the river, to place it in 
safety. Hardly one of the four recalls a Madonna lactans; but, indeed, 
Weber acknowledges that that is of very late date.]" 2 

1 Let me offer a plea, as well as an excuse, for this most necessary term, which Professor 
Tiele himself has fathered. It is in the preface to his Outlines that he suggests the word 
"hierology " as a substitute for the cumbrous phrase, " Science of Religions." If this term 
be adopted, we might when necessary say "Comparative Hierology "instead of "Compara- 
tive Mythology," and so satisfy conservatives without ( having recourse to the question- 
begging " Comparative Theology," or to the solecismof " Comparative Religion," which is 
no more justifiable than " Comparative Words" for "Comparative Philology." 

2 Art. Christus en Krishna, in the Theologisch Tijdschrift, 1877, p. 65. 


I cannot speak with Tiele's certainty as to the Horos-on-the- 
lotos being borrowed from India j 1 but in any case there is no solid 
ground for assuming that the Indian cult, in some form, was not as 
old as the Egyptian. The idea of a Virgin-Mother-Goddess is prac- 
tically universal. 2 As the mother of the Mexican Huitzilopochtli is 
impregnated by the touch of a ball of feathers, and Here, for the 
birth of Ares, by the touch of a flower, so in Tahiti the Goddess 
Hina, mother of Oro, conceives him through the passing of the 
shadow of a bread-fruit leaf, shaken by the power of the Arm of 
Taaroa. 3 In India such a myth must have been prehistoric. We 
have the decisive testimony of Jerome that in the fourth century the 
Hindus were known to teach that their Buddha was born of a Virgin 4 
— a fairly clear proof that the Virgin myth was current in India long 
before. Such a dogma could not have gained such vogue in the short 
time between Jerome and the beginning of Mary-worship. If then 
Buddha was so early reputed Virgin-born, Krishna, who ranked as 
an incarnation of Vishnu before him, may reasonably be held to 
have had the same distinction. In any case, it is clear that, as Tiele 
urges, the Hindus could perfectly well have borrowed, if they did 
borrow, from Egypt before Christianity was heard of. There being 
thus so little reason for surmising Christian influence in the matter, 
and so much for discarding any such surmise, there is a fortiori a pre- 
sumption against Weber's final contention as to the precise time of 
borrowing. There is a Krishnaist custom in India of " name-giving " 
on the festival day of Krishna's supposed birth ; and in answer to 
criticism the Professor writes 5 that " it is because the custom of the 
Egyptian Church of celebrating the birth and the baptism of Christ 
on the same day prevailed only from the second half of the fourth 
century till the year 431, when the celebration of the birth alone 
took its place," that he dates the Krishnaist borrowing of the Birth 
Festival from Christianity, " at the very time during which that 
custom peculiar to Egypt prevailed." Here we have perhaps the 
most striking example of Weber's uncritical treatment of Christian 

1 In his History of the Egyptian Religion, Eng. tr. p. 52, Tiele puts this view tentatively, 
as that of Dr. Pleyte. . 

2 For a variety of myths of the kind cp. Hartland, The Legend of Perseus, 1894, i, 89-95; 
Primitive Paternity, 1910; and P. Saintyves, Les vierges meres et les naissances miracu- 
leuses, 1908, passim. 

3 W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, 2nd ed. i, 326. 

4 Aclversus Jovinianum, i, 42 (Migne, Patrologice Curstis Completus, xxiii, 273). Professor 
Rhys Davids, in a letter to Mr. W. S. Lilly (printed in the latter's Claims of Christianity, 
1894, p. 30), makes a remark as to the Buddha birth-story which sets up some risk of mis- 
understanding. " The Buddhists," he writes, " did not ascribe to Gotama any divine birth 
in the Christian sense. Before his descent into his mother's womb he was a deva. ....." But 

Christ also was held to exist from all eternity before his incarnation. The essential point 
is that the birth was held supernatural. Professor Davids, of course, rejects the notion 
that Buddhism borrowed from Christianity. 

5 Indian Antiquary, iv, 249; Ueber die Erishnaj., pp. 299, 337. 


origins. Why, one asks, does he not inquire as to how the Egyptian 
Christians came to adopt that peculiar usage of celebrating the birth 
and baptism of Christ on one day, for only the short period he speaks 
of ? Was it a mere freak ? And if it were, is it reasonable to suggest 
that this mere temporary provincial ecclesiastical freak in Christendom 
somehow impressed the remote Brahmans so much that they deter- 
mined to adopt it, and succeeded in grafting it on the Krishna cultus 
ever since ? Surely it is more reasonable to surmise that the Egyptian 
Christians were the borrowers, that they borrowed their peculiar 
usage from some other cult, and that it was rejected by the rest of 
the Church just because it was so obviously alien in its origin. 

To be sure, the usage of the rest of the Church was itself an 
unquestionable adoption of a current Pagan one. The Western 
Church, long after the time when the possibility of ascertaining any 
facts as to the birth of the alleged Founder had ceased, adopted the 
ancient solar festival of the 25th of December, then specially con- 
nected in the Empire with the widespread worship of Mithra. 1 But 
the Eastern Churches, influenced by the Egyptian and other pre- 
Christian systems, adopted and for some time adhered to another 
date, equally solar and Pagan in its character. The facts are collected 
by Bingham, who points out that it is "a very great mistake in 
learned men" to say that Christ's birthday was always celebrated 
on 25th December by the churches : — 

"For, not to mention what Clement Alexandrinus (Stromata, i) says of 
the Basilidian heretics, that they asserted that Christ was born on the 24th 
or 25th of the month which the Egyptians call Pharmuthi, that is, April ; he 
says a more remarkable thing (Id.) of some others, who were more curious 
about the year and the day of Christ's nativity, which they said was in the 
twenty-eighth year of Augustus Csesar, and the 25th day of the month 

Pachon, which signifies the month of May, as Mr. Basnage (Exercit. in 

Baron, an. 37, p. 216) has at large demonstrated. But what is more 
considerable in this matter is that the greatest part of the Eastern Church 
for three or four of the first ages kept the feast of Christ's nativity on the 
same day which is now called Epiphany, or the 6th of January, which 
denotes Christ's manifestation to the world in four several respects which 
were all commemorated upon this day " — i.e., (1) his nativity or incarnation ; 

(2) the appearance of the star, = Epiphany or manifestation to the Gentiles ; 

(3) the "glorious appearance" at Christ's baptism ; (4) the manifestation of 

his divinity at Cana "And Cassian (Collat. x, c. 2) says expressly 'that 

in his time all the Egyptian provinces under the general name of Epiphany 

understood as well the nativity of Christ as his baptism.' But before the 

time of the Council of Ephesus, anno 431, the Egyptians had altered the 

day of Christ's nativity It was not long before this that the Churches of 

Antioch and Syria came into the Western observation." 2 

1 Julian, In Begem Solem, c. 20. Cp. Preller, Bomische Mythologie, p. 755. 

2 Christian Antiquities, ed. 1855, vii, 280-2. 


All of this is abundantly proved from Epiphanius and Chrysostom ; 
and only a supernaturalist criticism can here fail to see that the 
usages of the Egyptian and Syrian Churches were imitative of pre- 
existing Eastern astronomico-theological cults. What right then 
have we to suppose that India borrowed just such a usage all of a 
sudden from a short-lived borrowed practice of Eastern Christendom ? 
We have a distinct record that in connection with the ancient solar 
worship of Herakles among the Sicyonians, who sacrificed lambs to 
the God, " the first of the days of the Feast which they keep to 
Herakles they call Names, and the second Herakles' Day"] 1 and 
there is surely good reason to presume that similar usages prevailed 
among other solar cults long before Christianity. In the old Persian 
system, in which the festival of the autumn equinox was originally 
connected with Mithra, after whom the first autumn-month (then 
current) is named, it was "auspicious at this season to name children 
and ivean babes." 2 Here we have a close correspondence to the 
Hindu festival, for the month of Mihr is the seventh from the 
beginning of the Persian year, as the month of Krishna's birth is the 
seventh in the solar year, counting from the winter solstice. Is it 
pretended that the Persians borrowed their usage from the Christians ? 
If not, why should the Hindu usage not be as old as the Persian and 
the Greek ? The Christian theory is hopeless. If it is good for any- 
thing, there is no need to restrict it to the chronological scheme of 
Weber. As a matter of fact, the usage of general baptizing on 
Epiphany did not disappear from the Christian Church after the 
Council of Ephesus. It has been preserved down to modern times 
in the Church of Abyssinia, which has continued to receive its 
primate from the Church of Alexandria, and which practises general 
circumcision as well as general baptism on the day in question. 3 
Why should not then the Hindu usage have been borrowed from 
Abyssinia at a much later time than that at which the Alexandrian 
Church regarded Epiphany as the day of the Nativity ? Why indeed 
should it not have been suggested by the much more general custom 
in the early Church of reserving all baptisms for Easter-day? 4 And 
why, finally, should it not have been suggested by the Catholic 
11 Festival of the Name of Jesus," which stands in the Calendar for 
August 7th, close on the date of the Krishna Birth-Festival ? Any 
one of these hypotheses would be as reasonable as that on which 

1 Pausanias, ii, 10. 

2 Wait, Jewish, Oriental, and Classical Antiquities, 1823, p. 194, citing the Berhan-t 

8 Geddes, Church History of Ethiopia, 1696, pp. 32-33. Cp. Neale, History of the Holy 
Eastern Church: Patriarchate of Alexandria, 1847, ii, 347. 
4 Bingham, Christian Antiquities, as cited, iv, 69-70. 


Weber has fastened — as reasonable, and as unreasonable. The whole 
theory is a mistake. 

A more instructive part of Weber's argument concerning 
the Krishna Birth-Festival, as now observed in India, consists in 
showing that no trace of it is to be found even in such late literature 
as the Puranas. An attempt to find authority for it in the Bhagavat 
Purana, he declares, entirely fails, except as regards quite modern 
MSS. ; and this he considers the more curious because this Purana, 
and in particular the tenth book, is the peculiar text-book of the 
Krishna sect. There is there no suggestion of a Birth-Festival. 
The time of the God's birth, he mentions, is told in detail in 
Book x, 3, 1-8, but without a date, save what is implied in the state- 
ment that it was under the star BohinJ, and at midnight ; and he 
raises the question whether the Birth-Festival existed at the time 
of the composition of the Purana. He decides that it must have 
done, not on account of internal evidence proving the lateness of the 
book, but because the grammarian Vopadeva, to whom Colebrooke, 
Wilson, and Bournouf ascribe the composition of the Purana as it 
now stands, was contemporary with Hemadri, the author in whom 
we first find specific mention of the Festival. That was about the 
end of the fourteenth century of our era — about a thousand years 
after the period at which the Professor thinks the Hindus borrowed 
their Festival usage from Alexandria. He might thus well decide 
that the usage existed before Vopadeva ; and he offers an explanation 
of the silence of the Purana on the subject : — 

"In the Bhagavat Purana is presented the modern development of the 
Krishna cult, which is chiefly concerned with Krishna's love affairs, and in 
which the Mother of the God passes progressively into the background. 

In the Birthday Festival, on the other hand the Mother comes very 

prominently into the foreground, playing a principal role, while of the love 
affairs of Krishna no notice is or indeed can be taken, for he is here repre- 
sented as still a suckling at his mother's breast. I do not hesitate here to 
recognize a quite peculiarly ancient phase of the Festival, the more so 

because even in that there appears in time a tendency to suppress this 

side, and to give the tribute of the Festival to the God alone, without his 
mother." 1 

That is to say, the Purana ignores the Festival because that preserves 
the old practice of honouring the Mother of the God, while at the 
time the Purana was written the cult ran to the glorification of the 
God himself, and the celebration of his exploits. To this explanation 
there can be little objection. It is conceived in the historical spirit ; 

1 Ueber die Krishnajammdshtami, pp. 240-2. 


and the only perplexity is that Professor Weber, while thus recog- 
nizing that the Festival preserves an old popular rite, which changed 
much more slowly than the poetic recitals of the God's exploits, 
should yet decide that even the popular rite was originally borrowed 
from the new western religion of Christism by a people who rated 
their own religious and historic antiquity high before Christianity 
was heard of. 

It is implied above that the Puranas represent the literary 
development of mythic lore ; but this does not mean that even 
their contents are not mainly made up of matter that in some form 
long antedates our era. The absolute preservation of an ancient 
document in its integrity, unless it be a matter of rote-learned 
ritual like the Vedas, is not to be looked for in a state of civilization 
in which manuscripts are not abundant and the knowledge of 
reading general. There is overwhelming internal evidence of the 
manipulation of the Christian Gospels : and the reason why, after 
a certain time, their text became substantially fixed, was just the 
multiplicity of the copies, and the ecclesiastical habit, derived from 
old Greek political usage, of meeting in Councils. And even as it 
was, we know that so late as the fifth century the text of the " three 
witnesses " was fraudulently inserted in 1 John v, and that this one 
forgery was ultimately accepted by the entire Western Church from 
about 1550 down to the eighteenth century, when earlier copies 
were authoritatively collated. Now, in India down till recent times, 
the frame of mind in regard to narratives of the lives of the Gods 
would be exactly that of the early Christians who manipulated the 
first and second gospels, and compiled the third and fourth. There 
was no such thing as a canon or a received text : there was no 
" apostolic " tradition ; there were no religious councils ; no scholars 
whose business it was to compare manuscripts. Besides, no manu- 
script lasted long ; Weber has pointed out how unfavourable is the 
Indian climate to any such preservation. 1 In fine, the re-composition 
of sacred narratives would be a perfectly natural course. But it 
would be fallacious in the extreme \o argue that a late redaction 
meant late invention ; on the contrary, there is good reason to 
believe that late redactions would often take in floating popular 
myths of great antiquity, which had merely missed being com- 
mitted to writing before. For this view, modern research in Folk 
Lore should have prepared all investigators. Our every-day nursery 

1 Ind. Ant. iii, 246; Berlin lecture, p. 30; and History of Indian Literature, Brig. tr. 
pp. 181-2. Cp. Macaulay, Trevelyan's Life, 1-vol. ed. p. 323. A friend in Burma, to whom 
I had sent a book, writes me that it has to be locked up in an air-tight box during the wet 
season, otherwise it would be destroyed. 


fables are found to be in substance as old as the art of story-telling, 
older than literature, as old as religion. 

Now, it is a common rule in ancient mythology that the birth- 
days of Gods were astrological; 1 and the simple fact that the 
Purana gives an astronomical moment for Krishna's birth is a 
sufficient proof that at the time of writing they had a fixed date for 
it. The star Eohini under which he was born, it will be remembered, 
has the name given in one variation of the Krishna legend to a wife 
of Vasudeva who bore to him Kama, as Devaki (sometimes held to 
be the mother of Eama also) bore Krishna. Here we are in the 
thick of ancient astrological myth. Eohini (our Aldebaran) is " the 
red," " a mythical name also applied now to Aurora, now to a star." 3 
We have seen in the case of Christianity how a universal astro- 
logical festival, of immemorial antiquity, came to be specialized for 
Christians ; and it is clearly not only possible but likely that every 
astrological festival of Krishnaism was in vogue in other Indian 
worships before Krishnaism prevailed. In these matters there is 
really no invention : there is only readjustment. But that a Hindu 
festival connected with the star-name Eohini and the birth of 
Krishna should be borrowed from Christianity, where the birth 
connects with the rise of the constellation Virgo, there is no shadow 
of reason for supposing. The very fact that no account is given in 
the older Puranas of the rise of the festival tells in favour of its 
antiquity. Suppose the festival to be the oldest datum in the case, 
the omission to date its beginning in the record is just what would 
happen — just what happened in Christianity. It would have been 
a simple matter for the early Christians to insert 25th December in 
their records as the date of their God's birth ; but they did not do 
so, just because that was so notoriously a festival of extreme 
antiquity. 8 And the birthday of Krishna may have been that of 
another God before him. 

But the most singular matter in regard to Weber's argument is 

1 This holds good even if we recognize in myths of menaced divine children an idea of 
the dangers run by the planted seed before it ripens. Some such idea is suggested in the 
myth that Ino, the second wife of Athamas, sought to destroy the children of the first 
wife Nephele (the Cloud), by telling the women of the land to dry the wheat before sowing 
it. On the failure of the harvest she planned that the messengers sent to consult the 
oracle should bring the answer that Phrixos, the son of Nephele, should be sacrificed 
(Apollodoros, I, ix, 1). But the story of the dried seed- wheat looks like a late fancy framed 
in elaboration of Ino's plot. 

2 Barth, Religions of India, p. 173. 

3 It is worth while in this connection to recall the statement of Ovid in his Fasti 
(i, 657) that he went three or four times through the official list of festivals, in vain, 
looking for the date of the old Sementivse or Festival of Sowing, which was not written 
down. See Ovid's explanation and that of Macrobius (Saturnalia, i, 16), cited by Keightley 
in his ed. of the Fasti. There were fixed and unfixed festivals, Stativce and Conceptivce, 
of which the latter were "annually given out, for certain or even uncertain days, by the 
magistrates or priests." Cp. Frazer, Golden Bough, 1st ed. i, 303,?iofe. 


the fact that the date of the Krishna Birth-Festival is neither in 
December nor in January, but in the month of July. 1 That is to 
say, it corresponds not with Christmas but with the Egyptian festival 
of " the Birthday of the Eyes of Horos, when the Sun and the Moon 
are come into one straight line " 2 — a festival held on the 30th day of 
the Egyptian month Epap or Epiphi or Emphi = 24th July, which 
was the last day of the Egyptian year. Yet it never occurs to Weber 
to connect the Krishnaite Birth-Festival with this purely Pagan and 
pre-Christian festival. Indeed one may go through Weber's treatise 
without discovering what the date in question is. As he says in 
answer to a criticism, " The date itself (December or July, midwinter 
or midsummer) plays no part at all in my discussion, and is only 
spoken of incidentally " in a parenthesis. 3 So the proposition is that 
the Hindus celebrated the birthday of Krishna in July by way of 
imitating the Christian fashion of celebrating Christ's nativity in 
January. One is at a loss to understand how a critic can thus make 
so light of such an important item. If the Krishna Birth-Festival 
were borrowed, why should the borrowers select a midsummer instead 
of a midwinter date for their importation ? Why, indeed, should they 
not place their God's birthday, if it only occurred to them late in the 
day to give him a birthday, on one of the other Krishnaist festivals ? 
I have not noticed that the Professor theorizes on the origin of these ; 
but their probably astronomical origin is surely important to the 
argument. As the historian Elphinstone has pointed out, " Even 
Mr. Bentley, the most strenuous opponent of the claims of the 
Hindus " to an extremely ancient knowledge of astronomy, " pro- 
nounces in his latest work that their division of the ecliptic into 
twenty-seven lunar mansions (which supposes much previous 
observation) was made 1442 years before our era" 4 — that is, 
centuries before the first traces of systematic astronomy in Greece. 
Supposing the division in question to have been derived by the 
Hindus from the Akkadians, the argument remains the same. 
Astronomical festivals, in any case, the Hindus must have had from 
a very remote antiquity ; 5 and every argument from analogy in 

1 According to Gubernatis {Zool. Myth, i, 51) it is customary "towards the end of 
December " to give presents of cows " in celebration of the new solar year, or the birth of 
the pastoral God Krishna"; but this appears to be an error, probably resulting from 
Professor Weber's omission to lay stress on the date in his standard treatise. But 
doubtless Gubernatis could explain the midsummer birth of the black Sun-God in terms 
of solar mythology. It is the white Sun-God who is born at Christmas. But on this head 
it should be noted that the death of the Sun-God Tammuz (Adonis) was celebrated in 
different climates at different times. See Max Miiller, Natural Religion, 1889, pp. 529-530; 
Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 232; and Frazer, as last cited. And see hereinafter, § 15. 

2 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 52. 

3 Indian Antiquary, iv, 249. 

4 History of India, ed. 1866, p. 140. 

5 On Vedic festivals see Max Muller's Natural Religion, pp. 524-5. 



history goes to support the view that their now popular seasonal 
festivals are prehistoric, and that some of them may even be derived 
from Dravidian or pre-Aryan practice. And when we compare a few 
of their usages with those of Christianity, it becomes plain that we 
must either suppose them to have borrowed a great deal more than 
Professor Weber says, or give up his theory altogether and look for, 
if anything, a reverse historic process. The points of resemblance 
are numerous and suggestive. 

" The new year of the luni-solar computation now in use [in India] begins 
with the first of Chaitra, which falls somewhere in the course of March, and 
in solar reckoning is said to agree with the entrance of the sun into the sign 
Mesha, or Aries" 1 — 

that is, the sign of the Ram or Lamb, which in the Mithraic system 
was the " new day," the creation day, and the greatest festival, 2 and 
in Christianity is associated with the sacrifice of the God, symbolized 
as a Lamb, on a luni-solar and therefore variable date connected 
with the vernal equinox. 

" There was, however, a period at which a different principle was followed 3 

the new year then commenced on the first of the solar month Magha, the 

date of the Makara-Sankranti, or the sun's entrance into the sign Capricornus, 
identical with the Uttarayana, or return of that luminary to the regions of 
the north, or, in fact, to the winter solstice." 4 

The Indian and European dates do not actually correspond : 
with us 21st December is the time of the sun's entering Capricorn, 
the sign of the Goat, while the Hindus put it on the first of their 
solar month Magha=12th January. But the astronomical motive 
is explicit ; and when we note that this old festival, still in force, 
lasts three days, and that the day after the sun's entering Capricorn 
is termed Mattu Pongal, or the feast of cattle, we see a new confir- 
mation of the argument of Dupuis 5 that the myth of a Christian 
God being born in a stable (which corresponds so strikingly with 
many other myths of Gods — as Krishna, Hermes, Herakles — born 
or brought up among cattle) is really at bottom or by adaptation 
astronomical or zodiacal, and is properly to be traced to the relative 
position of the figures in the fuller zodiac or celestial sphere. Of 
course the solar element is manifest in the Hindu usage. The 
day of the Makara-Sankranti, or Perum Pongal, is dedicated to the 
sun, and the day of the Mattu Pongal to Indra ; they are both 

1 H. H. Wilson, Beligious Festivals of the Hindus, Works, ii, 159. 

2 Wait, as cited, p. 189. 

3 Note by Wilson, According to Bentley, this was 1181 B.C. Historical View of Hindu 
Astronomy, p. 30. 

4 Wilson, as cited. 

5 Origine de tous les Cultes, ed. 1835-6, vii, 104. 


comprised in the term Pongal, which is an anniversary festival of a 
week's duration." 1 Now, several of the usages in this and other 
Hindu festivals are traceable in Europe in non-Christian as well as 
in Christian times. " The Greeks had a festival in the month 
Poseidon, or January, in which they worshipped Neptune, or the 
Sea, in like manner as the Hindus [at the same time] worship the 
ocean." 2 But there is no more remarkable correspondence than 
that between the Hindu practice of honouring the cattle at this time 
and the strange Catholic function of blessing the cattle — cows, 
horses, goats, asses, etc — at Rome on St. Anthony's day (January 
17th). Let Professor Wilson testify : — ■ 

" The time of the year, the decorating of the cattle, the sprinkling of them 
with water, and the very purport of the blessing, that they may be exempt 
from evils, are so decidedly Indian, that could a Dravira Brahman be set 
down of a sudden in the Piazza, and were he asked what ceremony he 
witnessed, there can be no doubt of his answer ; he would at once declare 
they were celebrating the Pongal." 3 

Now, no student can well believe that the Roman Catholic usage 
really originated, as the fable tells, in the fact that St. Anthony 
tended swine. These are the theories of the Dark Ages. To-day 
even semi-orthodox scholarship decides that " So far as myths 
consist of explanations of ritual their value is altogether secondary ; 
and it may be affirmed with confidence that in almost every case 
the myth was derived from the ritual, and not the ritual from the 
myth ; for the ritual was fixed and the myth was variable ; the 
ritual was obligatory, and faith in the myth was at the discretion of 
the worshipper." 4 

This holds true for every religion ; and if we apply the principle 
in the case of Christianity we shall make an end of more pretences 
than that as to the borrowing of Christian practices by Krishnaism. 
It is not argued, of course, that Roman Christianity borrowed its 
ritual usages direct from India on the contrary, the presumption is 
that these usages were even more widespread than the " Aryan 
race" in pre-historic times. The Roman Catholic celebration of 

1 Wilson, as cited, p. 172. 2 j#. p . 175. 3 j#. pp . 173-9. 

4 Professor Robertson Smith, The Religion of tlie Semites, 1889, p. 19. This maxim of 
interpretation (see above, p. 11) dates back to Creuzer (Symbolik, 1810-12), and to K. O. 
Muller: Orchomenos, 1820, p. 161; Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology (1825), 
Eng. tr. 1844, pp. 171, 175, 195, 206 ; History of Greek Literature, Eng. tr. pp. 287-8. See it 
also laid down by Kenrick, Ancient Egypt, 1850, i, 411, 413; R. W. MacKay, The Progress of 
the Intellect, 1850, i, 210-211 ; A. Bertrand, Etudes de Mythologie et Archceologie grecques, 
Rennes, 1858, p. 35; and Grote, end of ch. i. Cp. Miss Harrison, Mythology and Monuments 
of Ancient Atliens, 1890, pp. xxvi, xxxiii; and Dr. Frazer, The Golden Bough, passim. "No 
people ever observed a custom because a mythical being was said to have once acted in a 
certain way. [An unwarranted negative, by the way.] But, on the contrary, all peoples 
have invented myths to explain why they observed certain customs." " A myth is never 
so graphic and precise in its details as when it is a simple transcript of a ceremony which 
the author of a myth witnessed with his eyes" (Work last cited, 1st ed. ii, 128, 246). 


St. Anthony's day probably derives from the ancient Paganalia or 
Feriae Seinentivae, agricultural festivities in which the cattle were 
garlanded at this very season of the year ; ! and it is possible that 
even the modern name came from that of one of the Antonines. 
But if Christianity is thus seen deriving its festival days from 
immemorial custom, what reason is there to surmise that conserva- 
tive and custom-loving India came to Alexandria for the hint to 
celebrate the astrological birthday of Krishna ? Krishnaism has a 
number of festivals of which no proper account seems yet to be 
accessible in England, that given in Balfour's Indian Cyclopcedia 
being so inexact that one is at a loss to know whether in some cases 
different festival-names do not apply to one and the same feast. 
But it is clear that there is one great Dolu or Dola Yatra festival, 
the " swinging festival," which begins about the middle of March 
(Phalguna) and lasts as a rule fifteen days. In the large British 
towns it is or was restricted to three days on account of the liberties 
taken ; but among the Rajputs it is or was the practice to celebrate 
it for forty days, 2 with more or less licence. Now this practice has 
certainly an astronomical or seasonal origin ; and is as certainly 
akin to, or as old as, the ancient celebration of the Dionysia or 
Liberalia in honour of the Sun- and Wine-God among the Greeks 
and Romans. There was a " swinging festival " in ancient Greece ; 3 
and this too has survived to modern times. 4 The 17th of March 
was the date of the Liberalia in Rome ; and licence was the note of 
the festival. It would be just as reasonable to derive the Indian 
"swinging festival" 5 of the vernal equinox from the Christian 
celebration of the rising of Christ from the dead, as to argue that 
the Krishna Birth-Festival is similarly derived. 

§ 11. The Solar-Child Myth. 

The further we collate the main Christian myth-motives with 
those of Krishnaism, the more clearly does it appear that, instead 

1 Ovid, Fasti, i, 663. Cp. Middleton, Letter from Rome, ed. 1741, pp. xv-xix and 141-143. 

2 Rev. W. O. Simpson's ed. of Moor's Hindu Pantheon, 1864, pp. 139-144. 

3 Athenseus, xiv, 10. 

4 Miss Harrison, Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens, pp. xxxix-xliii. 

5 So called because of the ritual practice of swinging an image in a chair. But this 
practice, according to Balfour's Ind. Cyc. (art. Krishna), would appear to obtain also at 
another Krishnaite festival of three or five days' duration in the month Shravana=July- 
August. This I take to be either the Birth Festival proper or the special form of it called 
Jayanti, which depends on a particular conjunction of the star Rohini (Weber, p. 221; cp. 
pp. 262-3). On this I can find no exact information. In the month Kartika= October- 
November, there is yet another festival, celebrating the Gopi revels. In a note to Wilson's 
Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus (1835, ii, 264). citing the Bhavishyottara 
Purana, it is explained that many of the Hindu festivals have been displaced. Thus a 
festival once named the Holika is now termed the Dola Yatra (or "swinging of the Gods"); 
and "the Dola Yatra and Rath Yatra have also been displaced, and in Bengal, at least, 
transferred to festivals appi*opriated to Krishna alone, in the months of Jyeshth and 
Asharh, June-July." 


of the latter being borrowed from the former, they are, not indeed 
the originals from which Christianity borrowed, but always pre- 
sumptively the more ancient ; and in one or two cases they do 
appear to be possible sources of Gospel stories. We have seen how 
Professor Weber concedes that the story of King Kansa's killing of 
Devaki's earlier children in the attempt to kill Krishna is not only 
pre-Christian but of old mythic standing, and that it was the subject 
of dramatic representations before our era. Now, the myth -motive 
in question is extremely familiar in ancient legend ; and nothing is 
more unsatisfactory in the modern discussion of Krishnaite origins 
than the way in which this fact has been overlooked. Over a 
hundred years ago Maurice 1 called attention to the parallel between 
the story of Krishna's infancy and that of the infancy of Cyrus the 
Great, as told by Herodotus. 2 The story about Cyrus is briefly as 
follows. Astyages, king of the Medes, having had a remarkable" 
(and Rabelaisian) dream about his daughter, which portended great 
things of her progeny, gave her in marriage to a Persian of private 
station, named Cambyses. A year after her marriage, when she 
was pregnant, he had a still more alarming dream, whereupon he 
sent to Persia for her and put her under a guard, resolving to destroy 
whatever should be born of her ; the Magi having signified that his 
dream meant that her offspring would reign in his stead. The 
officer (Harpagus) whom he entrusted with the task, however, 
shrank from the act, sent for one of the king's cowherds, Mitradates, 
and ordered him to expose the child on a mountain abounding in 
wild beasts. All the same, the child was clothed in " gold and a 
robe of various colours." When the herdsman got home, his wife 
had just been delivered of a still-born child ; and they agreed to 
give up its body to Harpagus as that of the young prince, dead 
from exposure, while they actually reared the prince as their own 
child, giving him another name than Cyrus. When the child grows 
to boyhood, he of course reveals royal qualities ; and while ' playing 
in the village in which the ox stalls were " he is chosen by the other 
boys as their king, and causes a disobedient playfellow to be scourged. 
This Astyages discovers, and the story comes out. Astyages punishes 
Harpagus by causing him unknowingly to eat the flesh of his own 
child ; but is told by the Magi that as his dream has been already 
fulfilled in the coronation of Cyrus by the village children, he may 
safely let him go. Later Harpagus secretly helps Cyrus to make an 
insurrection ; Astyages impales the Magi, but gives the command 

1 History of Himlostan, ii, 478, 2 B. i, 107-130. 


of his troops to Harpagus, who betrays him ; and Cyrus reigns, but 
without killing his grandfather. Of Cyrus' death, Herodotus tells, 
there were many accounts ; and in one of these 1 he is declared to 
have been crucified by an Amazon queen of Scythians. 

Here, then, we have an old myth, 2 in which already, however, 
certain primeval mythical details are seen modified to suit history. 
The name Cyrus, in its Persian form, was or stood for that of the 
sun, 3 and the historic Cyrus simply had fathered on him the popular 
sun-legend, with modifications. Thus the herdsman's wife's name 
means " the bitch "; and it is explained that this is how the story 
arose of Cyrus being suckled by a bitch — a myth which at once 
recalls the story of Eomulus and Eemus, suckled by a she-wolf ; 
and that of Jupiter, suckled by the she-goat Amalthea. 4 Again, the 
secret message from Harpagus in Media to Cyrus in Persia is sent 
enclosed in the body of a hare — an animal which in early mythology 
repeatedly plays the part of a message-bringer. 5 And the robe " of 
many colours " is, like Joseph's coat, plainly the many-tinted cloud- 
drapery of the Sun. Apart from these details, the story of the 
exposure of the infant hero is plainly cognate with the legends of 
the exposure of Eomulus and Eemus, of iEsculapius, of Attis, of 
Semiramis, of Cybele, of Telephos, of Ion, of Iamos, of a dozen other 
myth-heroes, including Moses, the circumstances of whose exposure 
are so strikingly recalled by the Jesuist story of the massacre of the 
innocents ; and parts of the tale are found closely paralleled in the 
northern legend of British Arthur, as well as in that of (Edipus. 6 
The child Arthur, like Cyrus, is robed in gold, and like him is 
secretly sent to be suckled by one not his mother. 7 In the older 
mythology iEsculapius, exposed as a child, 8 is found by Autolaus 
and nursed by Trygon (=" the turtle-dove ") ; or, in another myth, 
suckled by a she-goat and protected by a watch-dog ; 9 or, in yet 
another, reared by the Magnesian centaur. Attis, whom his mother, 
the river-nymph Nana, bears after impregnation by a miraculous 
pomegranate, for which her father seeks to starve her to death, is 

1 Diodorus Siculus, ii, 44. 

2 See above, p. 102. A similar story appears to have been told of the hero Gilgames in 
the old Assyrian mythology. See .Elian, Be nat. anim. xii, 21 ; and cp. Hartland, The 
Legend of Perseus, i, 6-7. An African version of the story is lately reported from 
Uganda. A wizard warns a king that his daughter will bear a child who will bring 
destruction upon him. The daughter is isolated ; but the inevitable man arrives, and the 
prophecy is fulfilled by the child's growing up to slay the king. Sir H. Johnston, The 
Uganda Protectorate, 1902, ii, 594-5. 

3 Plutarch, Artaxerxes, beginning. 

4 Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus, 49. 

5 Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, ii, 77, 79. 

6 Cox, Mythology of the Aryan Nations, ed. 1882, pp. 134, 312. 

7 Malory's Morte cV Arthur, chap. iii. 8 Pausanias, viii, 25. 
9 Id. ii, 26. Pindar, Pythia, iii, 64, 


exposed by the father's orders, and is found and nourished by a 
goatherd, 1 or a goat. 2 Semiramis (" Istar in another guise" 3 ) was 
fabled to have been exposed for a whole year in the desert and 
nourished by doves, as Elijah is nourished for many days by ravens 
in the Hebrew myth. 4 Cybele, daughter of Maion and Dindyma, is 
exposed as an infant by her father on the mountain Cybelus, and is 
suckled by panthers and other wild beasts. 5 Antiope, bearing the 
twins Zethos and Amphion to Zeus and Epopeos, leaves them in a 
grotto in swaddling clothes, and they are found by a shepherd. 6 
Telephos, son of Herakles, is born secretly, and his mother Auge 
hides him in the temple of Athene, of which she is priestess. Aleus, 
her father, finding the child, causes him to be exposed on the 
Parthenian (Virgin) Mount, where he is nourished by a doe, or a 
goat, or by shepherds ; and at the same time Aleus gives Auge to 
Nauplius to be sold or drowned. 7 In a composite version, Auge and 
the child, like Danae and Perseus, Semele and Dionysos, are put to 
sea in a chest. 8 Ion is placed by his mother in the rock-cave, a 
possible prey to beasts and birds. 9 So Phialo, after bearing Aich- 
magoras to Herakles, is exposed on the mountain Ostracina, with 
her child, by her father, Alkimedon, who dwelt there in a cave ; 
and the call of a jay draws to them the attention of Herakles, who 
saves them. 10 So the prophet-child Iamos, son of Apollo, is left by 
his mother, Evadne, hidden in the rushes, where two azure-eyed 
dragons feed him with honey. 11 And so Priam's son Alexander was 
nourished by a she-bear, and JEgisthus, son of Thyestes and Palopea, 
by a goat. 12 Very rarely is the divine child slain, as happens to the 
babe borne to Apollo by Psamathe, daughter of Crotopus. Exposed 
by her for fear (as usual) of her father, it is found by sheep-dogs 
and killed. 13 

The wish of the bad king to slay the hero-child, again, is the 
specific subject of many more myths. 14 In an Arab legend of 
Abraham, his mother hides him at birth because the astrologers and 
wise men have declared that according to their books a child is to 
be born who will destroy the worship of idols and overthrow King 
Nemrod ; and the king accordingly gives orders to destroy all the 
male children who may be born. Hiding him in a cave, she puts 

1 Arnobius, v, 6, citing Timotheus. 2 Pausanias, vii, 17. 

3 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 271. 4 1 Kings xvii, 6. 

5 Diodorus Siculus, iii, 58. 6 Pausanias, i, 38; ii, 6. 

7 Pausanias, viii, 48, 54; Apollodoros, ii, 7, 4 ; iii, 9, 1; Mli&n, Var. Hist, xii, 42. 

8 Pausanias, viii, 4. 9 Euripides, Ion. 17, 18,27. 
10 Pausanias, viii, 12. u Pindar, Olymp. vi, 60, ff . 
12 iElian, as cited. 13 Pausanias, i, 43. 

14 See Mr. Lang's admission in regard to the Moses myth, cited above, p. 102. At times, 
as in the case of Saturn, the father himself is the would-be slayer. Even Herakles, in 
frenzy, slays the children borne to him by Megara, Apollodoros, ii, 4, 12. 


a stone at the mouth and there suckles him, without the knowledge 
even of her husband Azer. 1 The same story is told by the Arabs 
concerning Daniel, 2 as by the Jews concerning Moses ; it was told 
of Augustus in his lifetime; 3 and it was told at once of John and 
of Jesus by the early Christists, 4 who were in all likelihood merely 
freshening up two immemorial forms of popular religion in Syria. 
As the Moses myth is duplicated in the myths of Cyrus 5 and Horus, 
and unquestionably preceded by the myth of Sargon, it would seem 
sufficiently idle to suppose later variants to be derived from the 
New Testament. 

In point of fact there is hardly a leading detail in the Krishna 
birth legend which is not variously paralleled in other early non- 
Christian mythology. In the Greek pantheon, God after God, hero 
after hero, is found to have been reared under difficulties. " Neither 
in pictures nor in story," says the chorus in the Ion of Euripides, 6 
have I heard that the children sprung from the Gods among mortals 
have a happy life." Ino, mother of Melicerta (Melkarth), leaps into 
the sea with her child, to save him from his furious father Athamas, 
who has killed her previous child Learchus ; and the two are saved by 
Nereids, and changed by Poseidon into sea-deities. 7 Leto, pregnant 
with Apollo, is driven from place to place by the jealous hate of Here. 8 
The infant Dionysos, son of Ammon and Amalthea, is sent by his 
father to a secluded island, and guarded by the virgin Goddess Athene 
from the jealous wrath of Rhea, the wife of Ammon. 9 In another 
version, Semele, who bears Dionysos to Zeus, is spirited away with 
her child in a chest by Cadmus : the chest is thrown in the sea and 
cast ashore ; Semele, found dead, is buried ; and the wandering Io 
(who in the common myth is a cow) rears the child in a cave. 10 In 
another legend, he is excited by Here to go against the Tyrrhenian 
pirates, who capture him. 11 Similarly, Zeus himself in his infancy 
is stolen away by the Curetes from fear of his father Kronos (Saturn) 
and nursed by the nymphs Ithome and Neda ; 12 while in the more 

1 Revue de I 'Histoiredes Religions, vol. xxii, No. 1, p. 57 (1890. Juil.-Aout). As showing 
the medley of ideas in mythology, it may be noted that in this story the world is ruled at 
the time by four sovereigns : two unbelievers, Nemrod and Bacht en Naser (Nebuchad- 
nezzar); and two believers, Zoul Qarnei'n and the prophet Solomon. Nemrod rules "the 
seven zones," and dwells at Babylon. 

2 Bochart, pt. i, Hierozoicon, 1. ii, c. 3. 3 Suetonius, Aug., 94. 

4 See the Frotevangelion, cc. 22, 23. 

5 There is a further echo of it in the story of the infant Cypselus, concerning whom 
the oracle warned the oligarchs of Corinth that he would be dangerous to them, and who, 
they having failed to kill him, finally becomes tyrannos of Corinth (Herodotus, v, 93). As 
the story further makes the mother hide Cypselus in a chest (icv\J/{\r]), it is pretty clear 
that his name had pointed the myth-makers to a current myth in which a child so figures. 

6 Vv. 506-8. 

7 Pausanias, i, 44 ; Ovid, Fasti, vi, 489-550 ; Metam. iv, 511-541. Apollodoros, I, ix, 2. 

8 Callimachus, Hymn to Delos, 55 if. ; Homerid. Hymn to Delian Apollo. 

9 Diodorus Siculus, iii, 68, 70. 

10 Pausanias, iii, 24. n Euripides, Cyclops, 11. 12 Pausanias, iv, 33. 


familiar story Kronos devours his children successively, fearing they 
will dispossess him, till Ehea his wife gives him a stone wrapped in 
cloth, which he swallows in place of the new-born Jupiter, whom 
she brings forth in a distant place and rears in a cave, and who in 
turn overthrows his father, as Cyrus overthrows Astyages. 1 Yet 
again, when Arcadian Ehea bears Poseidon, he is " deposited with 
the flocks and fed with the lambs "; and in this case she gives 
Kronos a foal to eat. 2 Here in one story exposes the child 
Hephaistos. 3 In yet another story, iEsculapius narrowly escapes 
being burned alive with his mother Coronis. 4 Needless to speak of 
the serpents sent by Here against Apollo and Artemis 5 and the 
infant Herakles, 6 and the battling of the young Horos against 
Typhon : the myth is universal. The idea passed, as we have seen, 
from mythology to real biography. Ages before Cyrus, it was 
applied to Sargon, in whose epitaph we have : " My mother the 
princess conceived : in a secret place she brought me forth. She 

placed me in a basket of reeds She gave me to the river which 

drowned me not "; 7 and again we have it in the myths of Horos 

and Moses. And yet we are asked to believe that an Indian variant 
of this myth, closely resembling one current in Persia ages before 
Christ, is wholly or partly borrowed from the Christian Gospels, 
canonical and apocryphal. 

Carrying the comparison further, we note a variety of parallels 
in regard to which there can be no pretence that Christianity is 
borrowed from. For instance, Krishna, 8 Apollo, 9 Hermes, 10 and 
Jesus, 1 all alike speak immediately after birth. 12 Again, the story of 
the God being born in a cave 13 is anticipated in the case of Hermes 
and Dionysos, and in the cave-worships of Adonis and Mithra. 14 
So thoroughly did this particular notion possess the human intel- 
ligence in antiquity that it was grafted on the biography of the 

1 Hesiod, Theogony, 477-491 ; Pausanias, viii, 8. 

2 Last cit. 3 Pausanias, i, 20. 

4 Pausanias, ii, 26. Pindar, Pythia, iii, 54-63. Callisto, bearing Areas to Jupiter, is 
turned into a she-bear by Artemis; and Hermes has to be sent to save the child. 
Pausanias, viii, 3-4. 

5 Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 17; Hyginus, fab. 140. 

6 Pindar, Nem. i. By M. Clermont-Ganneau this myth is accounted for as a Greek 
attempt to explain an Egyptian vase-picture of Horus holding the two serpents. 

7 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 26. 

8 Vishnic Purdna, Wilson's trans, p. 502. 

9 Horn. Hymn to Delian Apollo , 103-32. Callimachus, Hymn to Delos, 86-7, makes Apollo 
speak in the womb. 

10 Horn. Hymn to Hermes, 17, 18, 29. 

11 Koran, Sura xix (lviii)— " Mary " : Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, c. i. In Pseudo- 
Matthew, c. 13, Jesus at birth stands on his feet. 

12 In the folklore of Uganda the Hero-God Katwimpla, " whilst yet in his mother's 
womb, spoke to his father and asked him to go and buy two spears and a shield for him." 
Cunningham, Uganda and its Peoples, 1905, p. 40. 

13 Protevangelion, 18, 21 (xii, 14 ; xv, 9). Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, 2, 3, 4, 5 (i, 6, 8, 9, etc.). 
Pseudo-Matthew, cc. 13-14. 

14 See Pagan Christs, Part III, § 7. 


philosopher Confucius, of whom it is told that his mother, in obedience 
to a vision, went to a cave on Mount Ne, where she gave him birth ; 
that genii had announced to her the honour her son would bring 
her; that the events were heralded by miraculous portents, and 
that fairies attended at his nativity. 1 In the Greek myth of Ion, 
again, the mother Creusa, after bearing the child to Apollo, carries 
him, swaddled and cradled, " to the same cave where she had been 
united to the God." 2 Yet further, the account of Jesus as being 
chosen king by his playfellows, 8 is clearly based on or akin to the 
Cyrus legend, above recapitulated ; and the various accounts of his 
games with his comrades, which seem to be regarded as having 
suggested the Gopf revels of Krishna, are similarly indicated in 
Herodotus ; the killing of boys by Jesus 4 being mildly paralleled in 
the chastising of a boy by Cyrus, as again more completely in the 
killing of an Egyptian by Moses. 5 What is the precise historic 
relation between the Krishna and the Cyrus 6 legends is still uncertain, 
though the connection is undoubtedly close ; 7 but on any view the 

1 Douglas's Confucianism, p. 25. Compare the following native account, given by a 
Chinese scholar to the " Parliament of Religions":— "I once looked up the derivation of 
the word 'sing ' (surname), which is given by Hsu She, the philologist, to be ' the product 
of man.' He adds that in ancient times the holy mother conceived a child by heaven, 
who was called the Son of Heaven ; on this account the character ' sing ' is made up of 
two parts— 'me' (woman) forming the one part, and ' shang ' (born) the other. In the 
historical sketches of ancient times are recorded many instances of wonderful birth. It 
was not confined to men of wisdom and virtue. There is an ancient saying that remarkable 
men have remarkable circumstances attending their births. Tradition has handed down 
many marvellous circumstances connected with the birth of Confucius. It is said that 
two dragons wound their bodies round the house where he was born ; that five men, 
venerable with age, representing the five planets, descended unto the open court; that the 
air was filled with music ; that a voice came out of the heavens, saying : ' This is a heaven- 
born, divine child, hence the sound of melodious music descends ' ; that a unicorn threw 
out of its mouth a book of jade, upon which was engraved this inscription : ' Son of the 
essence of water, who shall succeed to the kingdom of the degenerate house of Chan.' It 
is also said that the Duke of Chan, who lived five hundred years before Confucius, on 
coming to the place where Confucius was to be born, said : ' Five hundred years hence, on 
this sacred spot, shall a divine character be born.' As Confucius appeared at the time 
predicted, the Duke of Chan is therefore considered to have had a previous knowledge of 
the coming of Confucius. The fact that Confucius, during his lifetime, often dreamed of 
the Duke of Chan is also attributed to this circumstance. Tales of this character were 
scattered broadcast during the Han Dynasty by men who delighted in the mysteries of 
geomancy, priestcraft, and soothsaying. Though Confucianists do not reject such stories 
altogether, they do not set much value on them. Marvellous tales have always exerted a 
sort of fascinating influence over the minds of the Chinese people both in ancient and 
in modern times." The Hon. PungKwang Yu, in a paper written for the "Parliament of 
Religions." See Report, 1893, vol. i, p. 426. It should be noted that the "two dragons" 
occur also in the myths of Ion and Iamos. 

2 Euripides, Ion, 16-18. Later (949) she says she bore him in the cave. 

3 Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, cc. 41, 42 (xviii, 1, 7). 

4 Id. 46, 47 (xix, 21, 24) ; Gospel of Thomas (1st Greek form), 3, 4 (ii, 4, 9). 

5 Exodus ii, 12. 

6 This name, so much altered by our pronouncing the "C" as "S," is in the Greek 
(Ki'pos) and the Persian (Cosroe or Koresh, identified or interchanged, as above noted, 
with Khor, the Sun) sufficiently like " Krishna " to be at least as capable of connection with 
that as the name Christ. It may be worth noting that whereas Krishna is a serpent- 
slayer, in the Persian system the serpent is to be killed " at the end of days " by Keresaspa. 
M. Miiller, Chips from a German Workshop, ed. 1880, ii, 172-3. 

7 "As Laios [father of CEdipus] in the Theban myth is the enemy, Dasyu, of the devas 
or bright Gods, so is Astyages only a Graecised form of Ashadag, the Azidahaka, or biting 
snake of Hindu legend and the Zohak of the epic of Firdusi." Cox, Mythology of the Aryan 
Nations, p. 324; cp. M. Miiller, Chips, ed. 1880, ii, 172-4. The view that Astyages= 
Azidahaka, which appears to have been first advanced by Lenormant, is scouted by Tiele, 
OutWies, p. 179. " Azhi dahaka is a purely Aryan demon, and Astyages has nothing to do 


Christian claim is out of the question. The obviously mythical 
Christian story of the massacre of the innocents by Herod 1 was 
either a standing myth in an Oriental cult or a blending the legend 
of the child massacre by Pharaoh 2 with the legend of the quasi- 
Messianic, doom -escaping, and finally crucified Cyrus, who stood 
high in Jewish esteem as a liberator of the captive race and a believer 
in their God ; 3 with the addition of the prophecy of Zoroaster. 4 

The item of the God being hastily transported or born on 
a journey, again, is plainly a phase of the universal and presumably 
astronomic myth ; 5 and though the myth-necessity of taking Jesus 
to Bethlehem might account for that detail, the flight into Egypt 
is mythically gratuitous from the purely Messianic point of view ; 
the motive "out of Egypt have I called my son" being plainly 
an after-thought. The journey is really made because of invariable 
mythic precedent. In the old stories, Mandane comes from Persia 
to be delivered in Media ; Isis flies to the swamps of the Delta to 
bear Horos, and suckles the child in solitude, "no one knew where " ; 6 
Rhea goes to bear Zeus in Crete ; Latona wanders far to bear 
Apollo, and Themis 7 nurses him ; Cyrene is carried by Apollo 
athwart the sea, to Libya, garden of Jove, to bear to him the 
immortal child Aristseus ; 8 Auge (the Shining) in one version flies, 
in others is sent from her father's land, after her amour with 
Herakles, to bear Telephos (the Far Light) ; 9 Evadne (herself sent 
afar for nurture by her mother Pitane, who bore her to Poseidon) 
goes away secretly to bring forth under dark bushes the inspired 

with him." This view, however, will have to be tested by the reconstructed theory of 
Aryan derivation ; and in any case it is not clear why Astyages should not rank as " purely 
Aryan." Cp. Taylor, Origin of the Aryans, pp. 190, 319-321 ; Sayce, Ancient Empires of the 
East, p. 242; and Spiegel, Erdnische Alter ■thumskitnde,i, 531. 

1 It is erroneously stated by the Rev. T. Maurice, Hist, of Hindostan, ii, 298-9, that the 
argument of Origen with Celsus shows that the Jews of that day did not dispute the story 
of the massacre. Origen explicitly says (i, 61) that " the Jew of Celsus " denies the story. 
It may be interesting to note the probable mythological explanation of this story in all 
its forms, which is, according to the solar school, that the massacred innocents are the 
stars which disappear as the sun is about to enter, the destroyer being the Power of 
Darkness. The same idea is turned to very different account in the slaying of Argus by 
Hermes : and yet again in the slaying of Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins. On the 
other hand, when Krishna steals the milk of the cow-maids, it may be the sun who takes 
away the light of the stars (Cox, p. 369), or the -sinking night-sun who takes with him the 
light of the sky. See below, § 15, section 2, as to the killing of the six children before the 
Divine One. 2 Exod. i, 15-22. 

3 Ezra i ; iii, 7 ; iv, 3 ; v, 13 ; vi, 3 ; Isaiah xliv, 28 ; xlv, 1 ; Daniel vi, 28 ; etc. 

4 Arab. Gospel, c. 7 (iii, 1). 

5 It could be wished that Dr. Frazer, in his careful and ingenious analysis of the myths 
of Vegetation Gods, had paid more heed to the differentiating clue of the manner of birth 
of the different species of deity. Dionysos, for instance, is born under difficulties equally 
with the more strictly solar Apollo and Herakles. It is conceivable that such stories may 
at times have been understood of the sprouting of a seed in despite of the enmities of cold 
and of animals. In some cases, too, a wandering mother who bears a child to the God, 
or is taken by the God over seas, means just the founding of a colony under the God s 
auspices. But only an astronomic idea can well explain the idea in the case of indis- 
putable Sun-Gods; and in nearly all cases we are led to surmise a customary child- 
carrying rite, which the myth is framed to explain. 

6 Erman, Handbk. of Eg. Bel. Eng. tr. p. 34. 

7 Homerid. Hymn to Apollo, 124; Callimachus, as cited. 

s Pindar, Pythia, ix, 90 (55) ; Diodorus Siculus, iv, 81. 9 Pausamas, vm, 4 and 48. 


son, Iamos, whom she bears to Apollo ;* Danae, like Auge, is sent 
far by her father after bearing Perseus, begotten of Zeus ; and Zeus 
conveys the daughter of Opus to Locrus, there to bear Iapetos; 2 
Myrrha has to fly far and be transformed into the myrrh-tree before 
her child Adonis, the Lord, can be born ; 8 Khoeo, with child by 
Apollo, is locked in a chest, thrown into the sea, and cast on 
Delos, where she bears the child Anios, who is then taken and 
hidden by his father; 4 and Here goes "far away" from Zeus and 
men to conceive and bear Typhon — or Mars — or Dionysos. 5 Under 
all disguises it seems to be the Sun-Child, or Day-God, who is so 
born ; and the purple zone and violet hair of Evadne, the Dawn or 
Sunset Goddess, are as significant as the violet colour of her babe. 
But the motive does duty for all manner of cases. Hagar goes twice into 
the wilderness (a distorted myth) ; the daughter of Phlegyas follows 
her roving father far to bear iEsculapius ; 6 the mother of the deified 
Apollonius of Tyana is told in a dream to go into a meadow, and 
there she is delivered of her child ; 7 and in the Buddha legend, 
Maya (who becomes pregnant at the age of forty-five, a period about 
as late for India as that of the pregnancy of Sarah would be for 
Westerns), bears her holy child under a palm-tree (as Latona bears 
Apollo, 8 and as Mary does Jesus in the Koran) 9 on her way to her 
father's house. 10 Of course there are variations. Maya dies, as 
Semele dies, and Buddha is suckled by her sister, as we have seen 
so many of the Greek Gods were suckled by nurses ; whereas Mary 
lives and keeps her child ; but when Weber assumes that the carry- 
ing of Krishna across the river is borrowed from the " Christo- 
phoros " legend, he not only overlooks the mythological significance 
of the river, elsewhere mentioned by himself, but the whole legend 
of Cyrus, which presents the close parallel of the herdsman's wife 
being delivered at the same time as Mandane, as Yasoda bears a 
child simultaneously with Devaki, and Elizabeth simultaneously 
with Mary. And, as he himself points out twice in his treatise, 11 

1 Pindar, Olymp. vi, 49, ff. 2 Id. 01. ix, 84, ff . 

3 Ovid, Metam. xi. 4 Diodorus Siculus, v, 62. 

5 Horn. Hymn to Apollo, 326-331 ; Ovid, Fasti, v, 231-258 ; Diodorus Siculus, iii, 66. 

6 Pausanias, ii, 26. 

7 Philostratus' Life of Apollonius, i, 5. Compare the odd legend of the Epidaurians 
near the temple of iEsculapius, whose women till the time of Antonine must be delivered 
in the open air (Pausanias, ii, 27). 

8 Horn. Hymn to Apollo, 117 ; Theognis, 1. 5 ; Callimachus, Hymn to Delos, 208 ; Pliny, 
Hist . Nat. xiv, 44. 

9 Sura xix.— " Mary." Ilodwell's trans. 1861, p. 129. 

10 Professor Rhys Davids seems disposed to treat this episode as historic (Buddhism, 
p. 26) ; and writes that it was " in accordance with custom " that Maya went to be delivered 
in her father's house. It is evident, however, that the journey is one of the "details" 
which he admits (p. 27) may be due to the mythopoeic tendency. 

11 Ueber die Krishna janmdshtami, pp. 249, 280. It is further ( noteworthy that the 
Yamuna (i.e., the Jumna) has long had the poetic name of Kuli)idi=" daughter of Kalinda," 
which last is a name of the sun (Wilson, Theatre of the Hindus, 1835, i, 302 ; ii, 90). 


the river figures in the Krishnaite ritual as the serpent or " serpent- 
prince," Kaliya, a motive not found in the gospels. 1 On the other 
hand, however, when the Professor would derive from the third 
Gospel 2 the item of Nanda's journey to Mathura to pay his taxes, 
we are entitled to meet him with the converse proposition, that here 
at least it is the Christian Gospel that borrows either from the 
Hindu drama or from a common source. 

The gospel story of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem to be 
taxed under the edict of Augustus is obviously myth : there was no 
such practice in the Roman world ; and in any case Galilee was still 
independently governed by Herod-Antipas when Quirinius went to 
tax Judea. Only the late third Gospel tells the story : the narrative 
in Matthew, added late as it was to the original composition, which 
obviously began at what is now the third chapter, has no hint of the 
taxing, but implies that Joseph and Mary lived at Bethlehem ; the 
Gospel of Mary gives the visit without the taxing ; and so loosely 
was the myth credited that in the Protevangelion (c. 17) the state- 
ment is that it was decreed " that all should be enrolled, who were 
in Bethlehem of Judea." In that story, Jesus is born on the 
journey, in the cave, three miles from Bethlehem (c. 17) ; and it is 
after being taken from the cave that he is laid by his mother at 
Bethlehem "in an ox-stall." 3 Now, if the Krishna legend is clearly 
bound up with the long pre-Christian legend of Cyrus, why should 
we here suppose that its taxing- journey motive is borrowed from 
Christianity, instead of vice versa ? The latter is plainly the more 
reasonable hypothesis. In the Purana story, Vasudeva, crossing the 
river Yamuna, whose waters are stilled and lowered, with the babe 
Krishna in his arms, sees on the bank " Nanda and the rest, who 
had come hither to bring tribute due to Kansa." 4 The Bhagavat 
Purana version " more consistently makes Vasudeva find Nanda and 
the rest fast asleep in their houses ; and subsequently describes their 
bringing tribute or tax (Kara) to Kansa." 5 Again, in the Vishnu 
Purana, the liberated Vasudeva goes "to the waggon of Nanda"; 6 
and in the Bhagavat he " does not quit Mathura, but goes to the 
halting ground of Nanda, who has come to that city to pay his 
taxes." On the exhortation of Vasudeva to go, " Nanda and the 

1 Among the Gnostics, however, the serpent-worshippers viewed the serpent as "a 
moist substance "; and the symbolism of serpent and river is obvious (Hippolytus, Refuta- 
tion of all Heresies, bk. v, c. 4). 

2 The only canonical Gospel, be it observed, which has the story of Elizabeth giving 
birth to John when Mary bears Jesus. 

3 Ch. 22. In the History of Joseph the Carpenter, which follows Luke for the enrolment 
story, Mary brings forth Jesus "in Bethlehem, in a cave near the tomb of Rachel " (ch. 7). 

4 Vishnu Purana, Wilson's trans, p. 503. 

5 Id. Note by Wilson. 6 Id. p. 506. 


other cowherds, their goods being placed in their waggons, and their 
taxes having been paid to the king, returned to their village." Here 
is a detailed and circumstantial narrative, which, with its variations, 
we may with considerable confidence assume to have formed part of 
those dramatic representations of the birth of Krishna that are 
established, on the evidence of Patanjali's Commentary, as having 
flourished before our era. The Hindu story is detailed and dramatic, 
though of course grounded on a myth -motive : the Christian story, 
given in one only, and that the latest, of the synoptics, is either a 
mere myth-echo or is introduced in order to give a basis for the 
mythical birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, which the second gospel, the 
fourth, and the first as it originally stood, do not assert at all. On 
what explanation can we fall back save that the knowledge of the 
Indian religious drama, or of some Asian tale of the same mytho- 
logical origin, had been conveyed to Egypt or Syria, either by 
travelling Hindus or by Westerns who visited Asia ; and that the 
compilers of the third gospel got it in that way ? How should such 
a hopeless story have been invented for such a purpose if the hint 
were not already in circulation ? 

And the answer is still more easy in the case of the old attempt 
of the self-frustrative Maurice 1 to derive the item of Devaki's 
imprisonment by Kansa within seven gates, from the Christian 
legend, preserved by the Mohammedans, 2 that Mary during her 
maidenhood was guarded by Zacharias in the sanctuary within 
seven doors. M. Senart, 3 without any thought of Maurice's conten- 
tion, of which probably he never heard, gives a Hindu antecedent 
for the story in an utterance of Indra in the Vedas : " Being still in 
the breast of my mother, I saw the birth of all the devas : a hundred 
fortresses of brass enveloped me ; I escaped with violence in the 
form of a falcon." 4 And we may further point to the close parallel 
in the Cyrus legend, 5 in which Astyages puts his daughter under a 
guard, just as Kansa does his sister Devaki ; and to the familiar 
myth of the imprisonment of Danae in the brazen tower — which in 
one version becomes an underground chamber. 6 Is it likely that the 
Hindu imagination would need to come to Christianity for the detail 
of the seven gates ? Is it not much more likely that the Christian- 
Mohammedan legend and the Hindu drama alike were derived from 
forms of the ancient myth which makes the Goddess Ishtar pass 

1 History of Hin&ostan, ii, 314. 

2 Sale's Koran, note on chap, iii (ed. 1734, p. 39 b). 

3 Essai sur la Ligende du Buddha, p. 314. 

4 Big Veda, iv, 27, 1. 

6 Herodotus, i, 108. 6 Pausanias, ii, 23. 


through the seven gates of Hades, 1 to and fro, to reach and bring 
back her lover? This, like so many other details of the myth, may 
well have been pre-Aryan ; and it may point mythically either to the 
notion of the " seven zones," or climates, or seasons, or to the seven 
planets of ancient astronomy. 2 Alcmene, who with her husband 
Amphitryon had come away from her own home, 3 like so many other 
mothers of Gods, bears Herakles to Zeus and the twin Iphiclus to 
Amphitryon in seven-gated Thebes; 4 and a similar myth may have 
been taught in the Dionysiak, the Mithraic, the Osirian, or any 
other mysteries. Of myth there is no " original," save mankind's 
immemorial dream. 

§ 12. The Stable and Manger. 

After what has been thus far seen of the correspondences between 
the Christian legends and prior myths, it is unnecessary to lay much 
stress on the mythical character of the birth in a stable, which 
corresponds with, and is thought by Christians to have suggested, 
the legend of the placing of Krishna in a basket, and even, apparently, 
his upbringing among the Gopis. We have seen that an orthodox 
English Sanskritist identifies the basket with the Gospel manger ; 
and Weber lays stress 5 on the representation of the birth of Krishna 
in a cow-shed in the elaborate and dramatic ritual service of the 
Krishna Birth-Festival, which here departs from the Puranic legend, 
that making the birth take place in Kansa's fortress. On this head 
a sufficient answer is given out of hand by M. Senart : — 

" The confusion, in certain sources, of the siltikd-griha (lying-in room) 
with a gokula, a stable, contrary to the strict details of the recital, seems to 
him [Weber] one more sign of Christian imitation. But it must be remem- 
bered that the stitika-griha must, in the terms of the ritual, contain not 
only Devakl with her son and Vasudeva, but also, and all together, the 
images of the shepherds, of the servants of Kansa, the guards of Devaki, of 
the Apsaras and the armed Danavas, of Yasoda and Rohini, without reckoning 
the representations of all the exploits attributed to the child Krishna [Weber, 
pp. 268, 280, ff .] . The intention then was not to give a faithful picture of 
the facts reported in the legend, but -to group in a single frame all the 
personages included in it. How, on that footing, could separation be made 
of the new-born and the mother, or distinction between the prison and the 
dwelling of the shepherd ? And of what weight is the novelty, illogical if it 
be, of the arrangement ? The idea of representing the young God at the 

1 Becords of the Past, i, 141 ; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 221-227. 

2 In modern Brahmanic ritual occurs the formula :— " Fire 1 seven are thy fuels ; seven 
thy tongues ; seven thy holy sages ; seven thy beloved abodes ; seven ways do seven 
sacrificers worship thee. Thy sources are seven " (Colebrooke in Asiatic Researches, vii, 
273). The number had early become a fixed idea. 

3 Hesiod, Shield of Hercules, 1-2. 4 Id. 49. 
5 Treatise cited, p. 269. 


breast of his mother is really too simple to prove anything : there are not 
wanting examples of it in the religious representations of the Greeks." 1 

But not only is the suckling motive, as we previously saw, pre- 
Christian ; the items of the basket-manger and the stable are equally 
so. Not only is the Greek liknon, or twig basket, used to this day 
for corn and for cradling children, as in the old Christian pictures, 
but we know that the infant Dionysos, in the processions of his 
cult, was represented among the Greeks as being carried in such a 
basket, which again is represented as being the cradle of Hermes 2 
and of Jupiter. 3 In the ancient Greek lexicon of Hesychius (which 
at this point the Christians certainly did nob interpolate, though 
they did so at others) the word Aikvitijs is defined as eiridcrov 
Aiovucrov a7ra) t(dv Xlkv(mv, ev oTs To, 7rcu6Ya Kot/xcovrat, " an epithet of 
Dionysos, from the lihnons in which children are cradled." 4 
Further, on an ancient red-figured vase, the child Hermes is 
represented cradled in a liknon, apparently in illustration of the 
story of his cattle-stealing, with the oxen standing around and one 
of them snuffing at the cradle. 5 Now if, as our Christian apologist 
argues, a basket is a manger (as it is in the East, and as it is in the 
well-known picture of the Nativity by Botticelli), it clearly follows 
on his own reasoning that the Christian story is derived from the 
previous Dionysiak or Hermetic cultus. 6 In actual fact we find the 
God-Child represented, on a sarcophagus in the Catacombs, as cradled 
in a basket, standing under a shed, as in Botticelli's picture, with 
an ox and an ass looking on at his feet, in the fashion in which he 
is to this day represented at Christmas-time, throughout France 
and Italy. 7 This bas-relief, which includes the father and the 

1 Essai, p. 335. Compare ante pp. 166-70, and K. O. Muller's Ancient Art and its 
Remains, Eng. tr. p. 493. 

2 iepQ ivi XiKvy, "in the sacred basket." Homerid. Hymn to Hermes, 11. 

3 \lKV(p ivl xpv<T^u},"in a golden basket." Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus, 48. Cp. Hymn 
to Demeter, 127 ; and Apuleius, Metamorphoses, bk. xi, concerning the auream vannum 
congestam ramulis. 

4 See Liddell and Scott, s. v. Xikvltvs, \Lkvov, and \iKvo<p6pos ; and Servius on Virgil, 
Georg. i, 166. Cp. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Beligion, 2nd ed. 
pp. 158, 401 sq., 507 sq. 

5 Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 523. 

6 Dionysos would be carried in the cradle-basket on Christmas day. The rural or lesser 
Dionysia, the oldest of all, took place in the Attic month of Posidaon, which would 
correspond nearly to our December. Again, the great biennial festival, the Trieterika, 
was celebrated on Parnassus at the time of the shortest day (Muller, Lit . of Ancient Greece, 
Eng. tr. p. 288, following Boeckh). The Boeotians, further, began their year at the winter 
solstice ; and in Bithynia the month beginning on December 24th was known as Dionysos. 
Under different names, the month began then in the Cretan calendar, which was "the 
same as that used by most inhabitants of Asia Minor"; while in the Roman period the 
month Posidaon was in some calendars made to begin on December 25th. Schmitz in 
Smith's Diet, of Gr. and Bom. Antiq. following Clinton, Hermann, and Bergk. 

7 See the reproduction in Northcote and Brownlow's Roma Sotteranea, ed. 1879, ii, 258 ; 
also in Lundy's Monumental Christianity, 1876, Fig. 85, as copied from Nork's reproduction 
(in Scheible's Kloster, vol. vii, pt. i, p. 30) ; and in an article by Dr. Carus in The Open 
Court, Chicago, December, 1899, p. 723. See also p. 712 for a copy of a less elaborate 
design on a sarcophagus of the year 343, after Kraus— that given in Roma Sotteranea, 
ii, 235. 


mother, and three figures coming with gifts, is claimed as primarily 
Christian by Christian scholars, who see in it the adoration of the 
Magi. It has been argued, on the other hand, 1 that the sculpture 
is originally Mithraic ; a view which has much probability, since 
there is really no other way of explaining the entrance of the Magi 
into the Christian legend, though the vase-painting of the babe 
Hermes and the snuffing ox points to a connecting element in 
Pelasgic ritual of which the story of cattle-stealing in the Homeridian 
hymn is the customary would-be explanation by late observers. 
But in any case, Christian or Hermetic or Mithraic, this bas-relief, 
which probably belongs to the fourth century, proves that a God-Child 
was early represented as lying swaddled in a basket, with an ox and 
an ass looking on, or else lying on his mother's knee while the ox and 
ass seem to eat out of the basket, in circumstances which irresistibly 
suggest the gospel legend of the birth of Jesus ; and that legend is 
thus clearly imitative of, for one thing, the Greek usage of carrying 
in a basket the infant Dionysos, whose typical animals are the bull 
and ass. The cradle of Dionysos is a " long basket " 3 — exactly the 
description of that in the scene in the Catacomb sculpture and the 
Botticelli picture ; as it is of the " basket of bulrushes " in which 
the sacred child Moses is sent floating on the Nile. A " woven 
basket-cradle" again figures in the myth of the birth of Ion, whose 
mother takes him in it to the rock-cave, whence he is carried by 
Hermes, " cradle, swaddle-clothes, and all," to the temple of his 
father Apollo. 4 And if it be argued that the stable story is some- 
thing special to Christianity, the answer is that it is one of the 
oldest motives in Aryan mythology. 

The frequency with which Greek and Indian deities are associated 

1 First, apparently, by Seel (Die Mithrageheimnisse, 1823, pp. 436, 475), cited by Von 
Bohlen, Das alte Indian, i, 258. Von Boblen lays it down that Mithra's birth was 
" dramatically represented at the winter solstice ; the Sun-Child rests with a nimbus, and 
surrounded by the sacred animals of Ormuzd." The thesis is urged later by a Dutch 
rationalist, Dr. H. Hartogh Heijs van Zouteveen, in his Over den Oorsprong der Gods- 
dienstige Denkbeelden, p. 56, citing Nork's MytJien der alten Persen, which I have not been 
able to see. But the point is put in Nork's Die Weihnachts und Osterfeier erklctrt aus 
dem Sonnencultus der Orientalen, 1838, p. 30. 

2 Miiller (Anc. Art, as cited, p. 487) describes Hermes in this or a similar scene as 
" lying in swaddling clothes, defending himself from the charge of cattle-stealing," and as 
" cattle-stealer in the cradle." The vase-painting may be an illustration of the hymn ; but 
the hymn-story is clearly late, and may be based on just such a picture. 

3 Smith's Diet, of Gr. and Bom. Ant. ed. 1849, p. 411.— Art. Dio7iysia. That this is the 
mystica vannus Iacchi would seem to be implied by Liddell and Scott, and is asserted by 
Miiller (Ancient Art, as cited, p. 494). Cp. Ramage, Nooks and Byways of Italy, p. 157. 
The " mystic winnowing fan " was indeed a basket, but was it not also the Kaneon of the 
Canephorse? Cp. Spanheim, Obs. in Hymn, in Cererem Callimachi, 1. 127 ; and in Hymn, 
in Jovem, 1. 48 (Ernesti's ed. ii, 43-4; 822-5), and Miss Harrison. Prolegomena, p. 526 sq., 
and the illustrations on pp. 518, 523, 524, 525. In Hindu ritual the winnowing fan, the 
mystica vannus Iacchi, is always used in the rites of Cal, Cali, and Durga ; but the 
Hindus at present affix no other idea of mystery to it than its being an appendage to 
husbandry. They use it as a tray, on which they place before the image of the Deity the 

articles used in the ceremony On all solemnities the rituals prescribe exclusively 

the use of this fan, which they call Surp." Patterson, in Asiatic Besearches, viii, 52. 

4 Euripides, Ion, 31-39, 1596. 



with cows is sufficient to indicate to any student unmesmerized by 
religion that a nature-myth or ritual underlies every case. 1 The cow 
is the foremost myth-animal in the Vedas ; the clouds, the firmament, 
the moon, the earth, all have that aspect in turn ; and to the last the 
idea holds its ground. In the Vishnu Purana the clouds, the " cattle 
of Indra," " deluge the earth with milk"; "the cows and the bulls 
bellow as loud as roaring clouds "; 2 and the cow is to the Hindu 
to-day as sacred as ever, and preserves its cultus. In ancient Egypt 
and in Phoenicia it had the same pre-eminent sacredness. 3 But the 
myth of cow and stable spread world-wide with the race, so that we 
find the solar Herakles and Hermes fabled as living with shepherds 
or dealing with cows ; and the thievish "night-awaiting" Hermes, 
who on the evening of the day of his birth steals the cows of the 
Day-God Apollo 4 (who himself was a cowherd 6 ), was just such a 
figure as the black Krishna, playing among the cows with the cow- 
herds, untrammelled by commonplace moral principles. 6 So have we 
seen the solar Cyrus playing among the ox-stalls of his foster-father's 
home : the sun-child disporting himself in the stable of the sky. In 
the Homeridian Hymn to Aphrodite, again, the love-sick Goddess 
comes to Anchises " in the stalls," while the shepherds and the cows 
and sheep are absent ; and he disrobes her ; but when these return 
she breathes sleep into her lover, and herself puts on beautiful 
garments. Here the myth is that of the Sun-God meeting the 
Twilight-Goddess in the sky vacant of clouds. Her garments are 
the returning clouds, coloured by the sun as he sinks to rest — a grace 
of poetry which tells of a literary civilization that only slightly retains 
the primitive fancy of cloud-cows and sky-stable. But as we come 
nearer Christianity the plot thickens. In the worship of Isis, the 
sacred cow (herself a virgin, supernaturally impregnated by a 
flash of lightning or by the rays of the moon 7 ) was carried 
seven times round the temple upon the eve of the winter solstice, 8 
when the sun-child rose from the lotos; 9 and cow-headed Isis 

1 In Norse cosmogony a cow plays an important part in the creation of man (Grimm's 
Teutonic Mythology , Stallybrass' trans, ii, 559. Cp. p. 665; and Rydberg, Teutonic Mytho- 
logy, PP. 263, 391, 497). 2 Wilson's trans, pp. 525, 529. 

3 Herodotus, ii, 41 ; Porphyry, De Abstinentia, ii, 11 ; Erman, Handbook, as cited, p. 8. 

4 Homerid, Hymn to Hermes, 22 sq. 5 Iliad, xxi, 446-8. 

6 The parallelism between Hermes and Krishna goes to support the view of Ernst 
Siecke (Hermes der Mondgott, 1908) that Hermes stands for the moon and not for the 
wind, as Roscher argues. But the " Night-Sun " concept is a point of fusion between solar and 
lunar deities. The antagonism between Hermes and Apollo, as well as that between Indra 
and Krishna, may be plausibly explained as occurring between a new and an old deity, or 
the deities of different races. Assuming with Miiller that Apollo was the deity of the 
conquering Dorians, Hermes may be, as above noted, just a solar deity of the native races 
they conquered ; as on the other hand Krishna's superseding of Indra has been above 
conceived as the final triumph of an aboriginal cult over a Brahmanic. Cp. Renan, 
Etudes d'Histoire Beligieuse, pp. 42, 46, cited above, p. 148. 

7 Herodotus, iii, 28; Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 43; Pomponius Mela, i, 9. 

8 Plutarch, as cited, c. 52. 9 Id. c. 11. 


bears the Sun-God Horos, as in Indian legend the sun is born of 
the cows. 1 

And still closer comes the parallel. We know from Macrobius 2 
that the Egyptian priests exhibited a babe to the people on a certain 
day as being the new-born Sun- God ; and from Plutarch we know 
that the infant Horos was figured on the lotos at the time of the 
winter solstice. But there is documentary evidence that in the 
Egyptian system a Babe-Saviour was in pre-Christian times wor- 
shipped in a manger or crib, in connection with a virgin mother. 
The proof is furnished by the remarkable record in the Christian 
Chronicon Paschale (formerly but improperly called Alexandrium) : 
11 The same Jeremiah gave a sign to the Egyptian priests that their 
idols would be shaken and overthrown by a child Saviour, born of a 
virgin, and laid in a manger {frxrvrj). Wherefore they still deify a 
child-carrying virgin, and adore a child in a manger. And to the 
inquiry of King Ptolemy as to the cause, they answered that they 
had received this mystery from a holy prophet who gave it to their 
fathers." 3 The Chronicon Paschale dates from the seventh century, 
and would not by itself suffice to prove the cultus alleged, seeing 
that a Christian might — though this in the circumstances would be 
extremely unlikely — invent such a story to support his own faith, 
that being evidently the purpose with which the chronicler cites it. 
But read in connection with Macrobius and Plutarch, and the ritual 
of the birth of Amunoteph, it may be taken as certainly resting on a 
usage in ancient Egyptian religion. The Virgin and Child must of 
course have been Isis and Horos, whose worship was much older 
than Jeremiah. And the expression " Child Saviour" clearly points 
to a child-worshipping ceremonial, 4 and not to the Christian idea of 
salvation by the crucified adult. That such a worship was primordial 
in Egypt may be inferred from the fact that Horos, anciently a Sun- 
God, is reduced to the child-status in connection with the cult of 
Isis and Osiris. 6 It is needless to remark on the possibility that 
the ox-and-ass myth came from the same quarter, seeing that the 
temples of the sacred bull, Apis, and of the sacred cow, Isis, were 
already mystically, and in the former case literally, stables. But 
for the ox and stable there is yet another precedent. In the worship 
of Mithra, on the testimony of a Christian writer, 6 the lowing of the 
sacred heifers was part of a festival ceremony, evidently that of 

1 Zoological Mythology, i, 51. 2 Saturnalia, i, 18. 

3 Migne, Patrolog. Curs. Comp., Series Qr., T. xcii, col. 385. 

4 As to this cp. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, pp. 560-5. 

5 Erman, Handbook, p. 31. 

6 Firmicus, Be Errore, v. See the treatise on Mithraism in Pagan Christ a, Pt. ill, p. 340. 


Christmas eve. Now, it has been shown 1 that in a multitude of 
points the Christian myths are simply based on previous ritual, as 
myths so often are : shall we then suppose that this primitive myth 
of the Christian God-born-in-a-stable, which only after a time 
passed current even with his own worshippers, and which early 
takes the form of representing him as being born between cow and 
ass, whose cries, in the popular Catholic fable, hide his, 2 as the 
cries of the infant Zeus were covered in order to prevent Kronos 
from hearing them 3 — that this is anything but a variation of the 
myth-motive of pagan antiquity? The mimic presentment of the 
scene is one of the immemorial features of the Christmas festival in 
Southern France and Italy : who can finally doubt that the usage 
was there before the Christian creed ? 

That the ox and ass in the Mithraic-Christian birth-scene have a 
mythic or ritual significance is very certain. They are not merely 
inmates of the " stable "; they are from of old symbolic animals; 
and they were the two of all the talking beasts who had the widest 
prophetic reputation. 4 The bull or ox, again, is one of the symbol- 
animals of the Sun-God ; while the ass is not only of phallic repute, 
but " carries mysteries," 5 is constantly associated with Dionysos, 
and is probably at bottom the night-sun, 6 as is Dionysos himself, in 
contrast to Apollo, the day-sun. 7 In the Jewish ritual 8 the red 
heifer plays an important part ; and the rite, of which the Rabbins 
seem to have lost the explanation, 9 evidently connects with the 
similar usage in Egypt, which was associated with the solar cult of 
Typhon, 10 the Night-God or Winter-God and Principle of Darkness, 
one of whose symbolic animals was the ass. 11 The latter animal, 
again, evidently had a special significance for the Jews, since the 
firstling of the ass was specially redeemable, and on that ground 
bracketed with humanity. 12 In the sacred processions of Isis, the 

1 Id. and in the treatise on The Gospel Myths, hereinafter. 

2 Zoological Mythology, i, 361. 3 Calliniachus, Hymn to Zeus, 53-54. 

4 For ox and cow, see Livy, iii, 10; xxiv, 10; xxvii, 11; xxviii, 11; xxxv, 21; xliii, 13. 
For the ass, see the legend of Liber in Lactantius, Div. Inst, i, 21 ; also Plutarch's Life of 
Antony, where the ass's name, Nikon, "Victory," predicts to Augustus the triumph of 
Actium ; and the Hebrew legend of Balaam— all widely circulated stories. Cp. Gubernatis, 
Zool. Myth., i, 247, 398. For the talking horse, see Grimm, as cited, i. 392. 

5 Aristophanes, Frogs, 160; and note in Bonn trans. 

6 Gubernatis, vol. i, ch. 3, passim. 

1 Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 18. Plutarch, I. and O. c. 28. Dionysos, it will be remem- 
bered, was pre-eminently the God of the winter months. Preller, Qriech. Myth, i, 539-541. 

8 Numbers xix. 

9 Spencer, Be Legibus Hebrceorum, 1. ii, c. 15, vol. i, p. 340, ed. 1686. 

10 Plutarch, I. and O. cc. 31, 41, 52. Cp. Tobit i, 5, as to " the heifer Baal." Red cattle, 
again, as well as black (ante, p. 146), were a special sacrifice to Poseidon (Pindar, Pythia, 
iv,339). Dr. Frazer plausibly argues (1st ed. i, 401-2) that the red-haired victim and the red 
cow were symbols of the Corn-God, and were meant to promote the ripening of the corn. 

11 Plutarch, I. and O. 30, 31. The ass in turn was "red" for the Egyptians (ib.), and also 
for the Hebrews. Pleyte, La religion des Pre'-israe'lites, 1865, p. 150. 

12 Exodus xxxiv, 20. The legend that the Jews worshipped an ass-headed God doubtless 


ox and the ass were the principal if not the only animals, the latter 
being sometimes adorned with wings. 1 Now, in the Krishna ritual 
the ox and the ass figure very much as they do in the birth scene of 
the Catacombs ; and Weber decides that this is one of the details 
borrowed from Christianity. On that view, it would be borrowed 
from the Apocryphal Gospel of Matthew. The narrative of that 
document, late in its present form, is doubtless in part based on 
much older originals, and challenges attention by its peculiarity : — 

" And on the third day after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ the most 
blessed Mary went forth out of the cave, and, entering a stable, placed the 
child in the stall, and the ox and the ass adored him. Then was fulfilled 
that which was said by Isaiah the prophet, saying : The ox knoweth his 
owner and the ass his master's crib. The very animals therefore, the ox 
and the ass, having him in their midst incessantly adored him. Then was 
fulfilled that which was said by Abakuk the prophet, saying : Between two 
animals thou art made manifest. In the same place Joseph remained with 
Mary three days" (c. 14). 

Here we have a forced combination of the two myth-motives of cave 
and stable, both bound up with the worship of the Sun-God, who is 
cave-born as the offspring of the Earth-Mother, and stable-born for 
the reasons we are now considering. The reference to Habakkuk 
(iii, 2) is not to the Hebrew as commonly rendered, but to the 
Septuagint, in which, by a slight variation in the vocalisation of one 
Hebrew word and the spelling of another, the words " years " and 
11 make alive " (the marginal reading in the Authorized Version is 
"preserved alive," the text reading "revive") are made to read as 
" two living creatures," 2 so that we have the Greek version ev jxeo-a) 8vo 
fdW yv<Dcrdrj(TY), " between two living creatures thou shalt be known." 
Here then rises the interesting question, Does the Septuagint 
proceed upon an Egyptian or other version of the ox-and-ass myth ? 
Let us see what the commentators have to say : — 

" There is a double reading of these words in the Septuagint version of 
them, and both very different from the Hebrew text. The one is, in the 

midst of two lives thou shalt be known The other, by a change of the 

accent, is, in the midst of two animals thou shalt be known; so the Arabic 
version. Theodoret makes mention of both, and inclines to the former ; 
1 some [he says] by two animals understand angels and men ; some the 
incorporeal powers near the divine Glory, the cherubim and seraphim ; 
others the Jews and Babylonians ; but to me it seems that the prophet does 

not say animals, but lives, the present and future ' The latter reading is 

followed by many of the ancients, whose different senses are given by Jerome 

derives from the fact that the Samaritan God Tartak (2 Kings xvii, 31) was so figured. 
Pleyte, as above, citing the Talmud. Sanhedrim, fol. 63. Cp. Pleyte, p. 186, and PI. ix, x. 

1 Apuleius, Metamorphoses, B. xi. 

* 2 Note in the " Ante-Nicene Library " ed. of the Apocryphal Gospels, p. 23, 


on the place ; some interpreting them of the Son and Spirit, by whom the 
Father is made known ; others of the two cherubim in Exodus, and of the 
two seraphim in Isaiah ; and there were some who understood them of the 

two Testaments, the Old and New ; and others of Christ's being crucified 

between two thieves ; but besides these different sentiments many of the 

ancients concluded from hence that Christ lay in the manger between two 
animals, the ox and the ass, and to which they refer in their ancient hymns. 
[Cognovit bos et asinus Quod puer erat Dominus] Ml 

The rest is modern Talmudism — the ancient "demoniacal 
possession " of verbalism over again. Nothing is to be gathered 
save that the Septuagint somehow adopted the reading of " two 
creatures," a formula unintelligible on Biblical grounds, but 
explicable in all likelihood by the ancient ritual-usage under notice. 
For the rest, the context in the Septuagint, " thou shalt be acknow- 
ledged when the years draw nigh ; thou shalt be manifested when 
the time is come," was well fitted to serve as a Messianic prophecy 
for the Hellenic Jews. But that a merely accidental reading or 
misreading of the Hebrew text could be the origin of the myth of 
the stable and the adoring ox and ass, as later found in the 
apocryphal Gospel, is incredible. The stable, as we have seen, was 
an established myth, and the ox and ass were at home in the stable. 
If the translator of Habakkuk in the Septuagint was influenced by 
an Egyptian or Oriental mystery-doctrine, then we trace to pre- 
Christian times the entrance of the ox-and-ass myth into Judaic 
channels; if, on the other hand, the "two animals" was a quite 
fortuitous reading, we are left to what we otherwise know of the 
mythological standing of the animals in question. Justin Martyr, 
who was pretty close to the myth-sources, has a statement that 
" David predicted that he [Christ] would be born from the womb 
before sun and moon." 2 The reference is to the corrupt passage 
Ps. ex, 3 ; and the translators of the Ante-Nicene Library version 
have this note : "Justin puts ' sun and moon ' instead of ' Lucifer.' 
Maranus says David did predict, not that Christ would be born of 
Mary before sun and moon, but that it would happen before sun and 
moon that He would be born of a Virgin." Whatever "David" 
said, we have here the glyph of the symbolic ox and ass at the 

And the passage in Pseudo-Matthew is singularly suggestive of 
just such a process of legend-making from old ritual as has been 
above contended for. Here, as in the Protevangelion, the laying-in- 
the-manger is entirely dissociated from the birth, and is therefore 

1 Gill's Exposition of the Old Testament, Doudney's ed. iv. 777. 

2 DioAooue v;ith Trypho, c. 76. 


the more confidently to be looked upon as a piece of narrative 
framed to meet a purpose ; just as the pragmatic account of the 
lightless cave is evidently intended to have a doctrinal significance. 
The need for such a doctrine lay in the pre-existence of cave-worship, 
especially in Mithraism, from which Christianity so largely borrowed 
in other regards, and in the actual practice of a Pagan ritual in which 
a Child-God (as Ion) was exhibited as born in a cave ; and the need 
for the laying in a manger in presence of ox and ass can be explained 
only in a similar way. Thus established, the myth would easily 
reappear in the form of the animation by the child Jesus of figures 
of oxen and asses, 1 and in the appearance of oxen and asses in the 
fabulous cortege of the family in Egypt. 2 

Is it then reasonable, is it plausible, to assume that this certainly 
derivative legend, never accepted as canonical, suddenly captured the 
Hindus late in our era in its Christianized form ? Are we not, on 
the contrary, driven irresistibly to infer that the Christian ox-and- 
ass legend derives from a ritual of immemorial antiquity ? 

And here, at least, the Hindu sacred books and ritual offer some- 
thing like a decisive answer. To begin with, Agni in the Rig Veda is 
constantly addressed as a new-born infant, he being primarily the 
Fire, which is generated afresh every time the aranis, the fire-sticks, 
are rubbed together, a process conserved for religious purposes (as 
the sacred fire was rekindled in Mexico and elsewhere) for ages after 
it had become unnecessary. Thus, for one thing, the ever new-born 
Agni of the Veda is associated with the crossed sticks, which on one 
theory are the origin of the cross symbol. But not only is Agni 
repeatedly adored as the new-born by his worshippers, he is held to 
be similarly adored by the forces of Nature, and by the Devas or 
divinities in general, as is the luminous Christ-child in the Prote- 
vangelion, 3 and the " beautiful beloved child " the Sun-God in the 
ancient ritual of Egypt 4 : — 

"Agni, the bright-bodied, as soon as born, fills all dwellings with shining 

light. When born, thou, O Agni, art the embryo of heaven and earth 

variegated, infantine, thou dispersest the nocturnal glooms Therefore the 

genetrices (of all things, the herbs) the cherishers (of all) with food, wait on 
thee who art the augmenter of food, with the sacrificial viands." 5 

"The Vedic Gods render homage to Agni when he is born, and when he 
passes resplendent from his parents the aranis." G 

" He [Agni] diffuses happiness in a dwelling like a son newly born." 7 

1 Arabic Gospel of Infancy, c. 36. 2 Pseudo-Matthew, c. 19. 

3 c. 19. Cp. Arabic Gospel of Infancy, c. 3. 4 Ernian, Handbook, p. 9. 

5 Wilson's trans, of Big Veda Sanhita, vi (1888), pp. 1-2. 

6 Senart, Essai, p. 292, citing Big Veda, vi, 7, 4, 

7 Wilson's trans, i, 184, 


" He [Agni] it is whom the two sticks have engendered like a new-born 
babe." 1 

"Thou [Agni] art born unobstructed of two mothers [i.e., either the fire- 
sticks or the heaven and earth] they have augmented thee with butter." 2 

So in the later western world 3 is Dionysos hailed ignigenam, satumque 
iterum, solumque bimatrem, "fire-born, twice-born, the only one with 
two mothers." 4 And this transparent infant-myth is curiously inter- 
woven in the Veda with the other primeval myths of cow and cave. 

"Agni, as soon as born, blazes brightly, destroying the Dasyus" [demons] 
" and (dispersing) the darkness by his lustre ; he has discovered the cows, 
the waters, the sun." 5 

"In this world our mortal forefathers departed after instituting the sacred 
rite, when, calling upon the dawn, they extricated the milk-yielding kine, 
concealed among the rocks in the darkness (of the cave) . 

" Rending the rocks they worshipped (Agni) and other (sages) taught every- 
where their (acts) : unprovided with the means of extricating the cattle, they 
glorified the author of success, whence they found the light, and were thus 
enabled (to worship him) with holy ceremonies. 

" Devoted (to Agni) those leaders (of sacred rites) with minds intent upon 
(recovering) the cattle, forced open, by (the power) of divine prayer, the 
obstructing compact solid mountain, confining the cows, a cow-pen full 
of kine 

" The scattered darkness was destroyed : the firmament glowed with 
radiance : then the sun stood above the undecaying mountains, beholding 
all that was right or wrong among mankind." 6 

This last extra-obscure passage well exemplifies the frequent difficulty, 
avowed by the best scholars, 7 of making out what the Vedas mean — 
a difficulty further deducible from a comparison of the renderings of 
Wilson and Langlois with those of later German translators, and of 
these last with each other. But the association of Agni with cattle 
and cave seems certain from that and the previous extract, and there 
is no great obscurity in these further passages : — 

" Both the auspicious ones (day and night) wait upon him [Agni] like two 
female attendants, as lowing kine (follow their calves)." 8 

" The night and the day, mutually effacing each other's complexion, give 

1 Id. iii, 253-4. 

2 Id. iii, 256-7. Elsewhere, Agni is thrice born— in the air, in the earth, and in the water 
—the last, doubtless, being on account of the sun's reflection there. Cp. Wilson's tr. iii, 
21, 34 ; vi, 119; and Grassniann's, pp. 45, 73. 

3 That Dionysos is primarily a Thrakian Beer-God, as such born of the Earth Mother, 
is convincingly proved by Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, ch.viii ; but in his later Wine-God 
stage he seems to have acquired some Asiatic characteristics. 

4 Ovid, Metam. iv, 11; Diodorus Siculus, iii, 61 ; iv, 4, 5; Orphica 1. i. 

5 Wilson's trans, iii, 261. G Id. iii, 115-6. 

7 See Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, ii, 214. It should be noted that Wilson's trans- 
lation, which is here primarily used, follows the commentary of Sayana, as to the merits 
of which see Max Muller, pref . to 1st ed. of trans, of Vedic Hymns, 8. B. E. On comparing 
the passages here cited with the later renderings of Oldenberg, I find no vital differences. 
In any case, we want in this connection to have the text as understood by the later 

8 B.V. I, ii, 2. Wilson's trans, i, 246. Oldenberg translates :—" For thee Nights and 
Dawns have been lowing, O Agni, as milch-cows in the folds for their calf" (S. B. E. xlvi, 193). 


nourishment, combined together, to one infant [Agni] who, radiant, shines 
between earth and heaven." 1 

Of these two extracts the first is thus rendered from the original in 
the German metrical version of H.Grassmann: 2 " To thee, Agni, shout 
for joy (jauchzen) Night and the Dawn, as in the stalls cows cry to 
calves." Is it going too far to surmise that, seeing Agni himself, 
Fire-God and Sun-God, was in the Veda said to have been, " in the 
olden time, the bull and the cow," 3 the symbols of the Night and the 
Morning, here represented as saluting him, may even then have been 
the Ox and Ass ? 

When we compare the notion of the instantaneous growth of the 
new-born Agni (who " as soon as born fills heaven and earth with 
light," and "fractures, as he advances, the solid cloud"; 4 and who 
is further the " archer " and the " lord of night " 5 ), the Vedic address 
to Indra as having " discovered the cows hidden in the cave," 6 and 
the legend that these cows were stolen by the Asuras 7 — when we 
compare these data with the Greek myth of the night-waiting, 
cattle-stealing, infant Hermes, it is difficult to doubt that the latter 
fable derives from the Asiatic original preserved in the Veda. 
Whether the " two mothers " were suggested by the common myth 
of the suckling of the child-God by another than she who bore him, 
or whether the latter notion grew out of the misunderstood symbol 
of the two fire-sticks, or the mystic doctrine that the Sun-God was 
born of both Heaven and Earth, 8 we need not attempt to decide. 
But as regards the Indian origin of the ox-and-ass myth we get 
a fresh light when we connect the Vedic myths of the infant Agni 
(who, by the way, was specially invoked at the vernal equinox 9 ) 
with the Krishnaite ritual of the Birth Festival. In the Jayanti 
form of the festival, the erecting of a shed, the watching by it 
through the night, and the distribution of the images, are important 
items. 10 Now, in the Catacomb sarcophagus, the basket containing 
the child, and the ox and ass, stand under a sloping shed-roof, resting 
on two posts, while none of the other figures do. Here there is 
neither cave nor inn-stable ; there is only a scenic shed, exactly 
answering to the shed of the Krishnaite ritual ; and to the right of 
that two palm trees, between which the mother sits. Eemarkably 

1 B.V. I, xcvi. Wilson's trans, p. 252. Oldenberg's version runs: "Night and Dawn, 
who constantly destroy each other's appearance, suckle one young calf unitedly. The 
piece of gold [= Agni] shines between Heaven and Earth " (S.B.E. xlvi, 119). 

2 Leipzig, 1876, p. 8. 8 Wilson's trans, vi (1888), p. 11. 

4 Wilson's trans, hi, 120. 5 Id. i, 186, 188. 6 Id. i, 16. 

7 Id. ib. Wilson's note. . 

8 Oldenberg leaves open both views, citing Bergaigne, Beligion Vhlique, i, 28, 238. Else- 
where (S.B.E. xlvi, 51) he notes that " Agni, as is well known, is the son of the two worlds," 

9 Id. i, 157, note, 10 Weber, p. 223, 


enough, one of those trees bends, as do the palms in the Koran 
legend of Mary, in the Buddhist legend of Maya, and in the account 
in Pseudo-Matthew (c. 20) of the wanderings of Mary and Joseph 
after the birth. The trees clearly cannot be reconciled with cave 
or stable. 

How then came this shed to appear in early Christian or semi- 
Christian sacred art, unauthorized either by the generally received 
cave legend or by the story in the third Gospel ? What possible 
conclusion is open to us save that it represents a usage in the 
dramatic ritual of some other cultus ; and that it was this usage 
that was in view in the peculiar version of the story in the 
Apocryphal Gospels ? And, apart from the familiar myth of the 
births of Apollo and Buddha under a palm tree, what ritual usage 
do we know of that comes so close as that of Krishnaism ? Either 
the scene is Christian or it is Mithraic. If the latter, we have 
a phase of complete identity between the Persian and the Hindu 
cult, which need not surprise us ; and in that case Mithraism would 
be the channel through which the myth of ox-and-ass, stable-and- 
manger, came into Christianity. But if we suppose the bas-relief 
to be non-Mithraic, then it must be held to be a close imitation of 
a ritual usage previously existing in India — the usage which survives 
in our own day. For the ass appears in Indian mythology as early 
as the Vedas, where already he has two characters, divine and 
demoniacal, being at one time the symbol of Indra, Krishna's 
predecessor, and at another his enemy. 1 As the friend of the black 
and once demonic Krishna, he corresponds, with reversal of colour, 
to the ass of Egypt, who was the symbol of the evil Typhon. 3 
Again, curiously, one of his Vedic epithets is " childlike." 3 

When, therefore, we find in the art of Buddhism, as in the 
Gandhara sculptures, 4 a representation of a Nativity scene, in which 
a woman lays a child in a manger-basket, it is quite out of the 
question to look for the suggestion to the Gospels. In the scene in 
question, horses' heads appear in the place of those of the familiar 
ox and ass ; and here we are probably dealing with another solar 
symbol ; for the horse was in Asia specially associated with the 
sun. The babe in this case may very well have been Agni, who in 
the Veda is driver of the white horses of the sun ; and though, as 
we shall see, the Buddha myth has borrowed a good deal from that 
of Krishna, it could also draw directly from the Vedic store. 

1 Zool. Myth, ii, 370-4. 

2 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, cc. 30, 31. 3 Zool. Myth, ii, 364, 
4 Fergusson ancl Burgess. The Cave Temples of India, 1880, p. 138. 


And if Western borrowing there were on the Hindu side — which 
will hardly now be argued — it could perfectly well have been pre- 
Christian. The ass might be the ass of Typhon, " who was the 
chief God of the Semites in Egypt," 1 though in ill repute with the 
Christians ; and it may have been from Egypt that the Christians 
derived it. And when we are discussing origins, we should not 
forget the suggestion of Dupuis and Volney, 2 that the birth of the 
Sun-Child between the ox and the ass is simply a fable based on the 
fact that in the zodiacal celestial sphere the sun would come, at the 
winter solstice, between the Bull and the Ursa Major, sometimes 
represented by the ancients as a Boar, sometimes as the Hippo- 
potamus, sometimes the Ass, of Typhon. In view of the vase- 
painting of the babe Hermes in his cradle among the kine, we can 
accept this suggestion only with the qualification that the astronomi- 
cal gloss is later than that of the cow-stealing. But the conception 
may well be as old as the zodiac : the sky-cow is one of the oldest 
of myths; that of the cloud-cows may be only less ancient; and 
the imagination which placed terrestrial creatures in the heavens 
would house them there terrestrially. The Sun-God is in this 
primary sense born of two mothers, Earth and Sky — of the Earth 
in the cave, of the Sky in the stable. 3 

Another detail comes in to extend the surmise that the Christian 
legend borrows from the East. In the Catacomb fresco representing . 
the (supposed) adoration of the Virgin and Child by two Magi, as 
reproduced in large and in colour in De Rossi's Imagines Selectae 
Deiparae Virginis* the dish tendered to the babe or mother by the 
right-hand man bears a small human figure. What is the Christian 
explanation of that ? What hypothesis is more likely than that this 
is one of the Krishnaite images, or an imitation of an intermediary 
Asiatic cult-practice ? 

That, of course, remains a hypothesis. And, indeed, we are 
bound to keep in view that the manifold Egyptian ritual may have 
included just such a ceremony as that under notice. In the pro- 
cession of Isis, as described by Apuleius, the ass is accompanied by 
a feeble old man — exactly the aged Joseph of the Apocryphal 
Gospels. And we know that the solarized Amunoteph III, who 
here seems to typify customary royal ceremony, figures in Egyptian 
sculpture as supernaturally announced, conceived, and born, very 

1 Robertson Smith, Beligion of the Semites, p. 449. Cp. Tiele, Hist, of the Egypt. Relig. 
Eng. tr. p. 48. 2 Les Ruines, note on ch. xxii, § 13. 

3 Cp. Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Relig. Eng. tr. p. 8. 

4 Rome, 1863, pi. v. Cp. Roma Sotteranea, as cited, ii, 140, 170, 


much as is Jesus in Christian legend. 1 The messenger-God, Thoth, 
announces to the maid-mother the coming birth ; the Spirit-God 
Kneph miraculously impregnates her ; and the priests kneel and 
adore the new-born babe, holding up the cross of life. This must 
have been a matter of ritual. In the Catacomb bas-relief and 
frescoes, again, the adorers, the " Magi," both in the picture with 
two and in that with four, 2 wear the Phrygian or Mithraic cap ; but, 
instead of representing the venerable sages of modern Christian 
fancy, they are all young and beardless. The juvenile angel, again, 
exactly corresponds to that which figures in the admittedly Mithraic 
remains in the Catacombs, as reproduced by Father Garucci and 
accepted by Canons Northcote and Brownlow. On the other hand, 
in the fragment of the earliest-dated Catacomb sarcophagus 3 held 
to be Christian, representing the ox and ass, the swaddled child, 
and two adorers, the men are rather of Western figure ; though at 
the end behind them a hand appears grasping a palm tree or branch. 
Thus there is the suggestion of the East as well as of Western 
assimilation. We cannot yet decide with certainty as to the myth's 
line of travel ; we can only decide that all early Christian myth is 
an adaptation of previous myth. 

The case, I think, is thus far clear. The Krishna birth myth is 
at bottom primeval ; and it is highly probable that the Birth-Festival 
ritual, which Weber supposes to have been based on Christianity, 
preserves prehistoric practice. Some rite of the kind there was in 
the Dionysiak Liknoplwria, in which the devotees by night hailed 
a cradled Babe-God. 4 At the midnight hour of the Hindu God's 
birth there is a ceremony of a" pouring out of riches" 5 (ein Guss 
Reichthums) which it is a wonder the Professor does not hold to 
represent the offerings of the Magi. In all probability it does point 
to the origin of that myth. The "riches" are symbolic, an offering 
of melted butter and sugar — surely the " nectar and pleasant 
ambrosia" with which Themis fed the babe Apollo; 6 and with 
which the Hours feed the deathless child Aristaeus, son of Apollo 
and Cyrene, and by some called Shepherd, Jove, and chaste Apollo, 
God of Flocks; 7 the milk and honey on which Dionysos and the 
child Jupiter 8 were nourished : the " butter and honey " that in the 

1 See the woodcut and explanation in Sharpe's Egyptian Mythology, pp. 18-19. Cp. 
Wiedemann, Belig. of theAnc. Egyptians, Eng. tr. pp. 16:2-4. 

2 Roma Sotteranea, as cited, ii, 169: Imag. Sel. pi. iii. 

3 It bears the names of the consuls of 343 c.e. See the cut in Roma Sotteranea, ii, 235, 
and in Open Court, as before cited. 

4 Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, pp. 401 sq., 517 sq., fig. on p. 524. 

5 Treatise cited, p. 299. 6 Horn. Hymn, 124. 
7 Pindar, Pythia, ix, 97-106; Diodorus Siculus, iv,81; Athenagoras, Avol. xiv. 
b Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus, 49; and note in Bohn trans, p. 123. 


Hebrew prophet 1 are named as the food of the child Immanuel to 
be born of the " virgin " of that time, and that were used in their 
rites (with milk for butter) by the early Christians, especially in the 
" Mystery of Infants," till the Council of Trullo (held at Constanti- 
nople, in 691) forbad the usage, 2 doubtless because its pagan origin 
was recognized. And surely the ancient adoration of the ever-new- 
born Agni was either the origin or the parallel of the offering of 
butter to the new-born Krishna. Does not the whole mass of data 
go to suggest that a more or less dramatic ritual has preserved 
a Babe-Sun-God worship from immemorial antiquity ? In pre- 
Christian India it became actual drama, which the Festival ritual, 
with its multitude of images, appears to preserve as far as may be ; 
and there is much reason to suspect that the form of part of the 
Protevangelion 3 comes of a semi-dramatic ritual, as the adoration of 
the Magi must have done, and as the legends of the Lord's Supper 
and the rock-tomb burial almost certainly did. 4 Be that how it 
may, the theory that Krishnaism borrowed either its myths or its 
rites from Christianity is now evidently enough untenable. 

§ 13. The Myth of St. Christopher. 

The study of a few of the minor myths of Christianity in con- 
nection with Krishnaism will be found no less instructive than the 
comparison of the central myth-motives of the two creeds. Always 
the lesson is that the mythology of Christianity was derivative ; and 
at times, though there can be no certainty, there is some reason 
to suspect a direct Christian adoption of Eastern details. We 
have spoken of the item of the visit of the foster-father of Krishna 
to the holy city to pay his taxes, which in the Krishna myth is as 
it were naturally embedded in the narrative, while in the Christ 
myth it is grafted on loosely and vicariously. But the same state- 
ment may be made even more emphatically in other regards. 
Professor Weber 5 has assumed the priority of the " Christophoros " 
legend, in which St. Christopher under miraculous circumstances 
carries the rejuvenated Christ, the Christ-child, on his shoulders 
across a river by night. The Professor does not ask how it was 
that the idea of regarding Christ still as a child came to persist in 

1 Isaiah vii, 14-15. 

2 Bingham's Christian Antiquities, xv, 2, § 3 (ed. 1855, vol. v, 242-3). 

3 Chs. xiii, xiv. 4 See Pagan Christs, Part iii, Mithraism, § 4. 

5 Here adopting a thesis of the pre-scientific Giorgi— cited by Von Bohlen, Das Alte 
Indien, 1830. i, 232. Von Bohlen states that Kleuker held the Christophoros story to be of 
Indian origin ; but I cannot find such a remark in the place cited. Kleuker did, however 
(Abhandlungen, as before cited, ii, 234), argue that it was probably the Christians who 
borrowed from the Hindus, and that the apocryphal Gospels show distinct traces of 
Indian influence. 


the Church through so many centuries, and that only gradually did 
he come to be pictured as a young man, and finally as a man of 
middle age. We can see what preserves the child image in 
Krishnaism — the ancient usage of dramatic ritual, which is only 
partially overruled by the literary presentment of the stories of the 
God's career. Now, by far the most probable hypothesis of the 
origin of the Christophoros myth is either that it was framed to 
explain a Pagan sculpture, or that, like so many others, it was 
invented late to explain some dramatic or other representation — 
that there was a ritual in which the Christ-child, like the infant 
Dionysos or Hermes in Greece, and the infant Horos in Egypt, was 
carried on a man's (or God's) shoulder, long before the legend of the 
colossal Christ-bearer was framed. 

For this hypothesis we have the most convincing evidence in the 
plural term Ghristophoroi, found applied to martyrs in an alleged 
letter of the third century quoted by Eusebius. 1 This term the 
orthodox authorities deduce from the epithet " Theophoros," said to 
have been applied to Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch ; and the usual 
explanation is that it means " full of Christ," as Theophoros meant 
"full of God." 2 The Bohn translator, Mr. Cruse, however, insists 
on the etymological meaning of the word, writing that " the martyrs 
were called, by a strong figure, Christophori, because they bore ; and 
Ignatius was called Theophorus for the same reason." This is 
probably nearer the truth than Mr. Cruse was aware of. The 
name Theophoros would not have been attached to Ignatius had it 
not been in existence before. It literally meant, in classic usage, 
one "bearing or carrying a God"; 3 and would naturally be applied 
to those who carried statues of the Gods in ceremonial or procession. 
There were a score of such names in connection with the Greek 
rituals. Not to speak of the soldiers and police officers called after 
the weapons they carried, as the doryphoroi, aichmophoroi, masti- 
gophoroi, rhabdophoroi, etc., there were the liknophoroi, the women 
who carried the cradle-basket of Dionysos in his processions ; the 
kanephoroi, women who bore sacred baskets of another sort ; the 
oschophoroi, noble youths who, in the disguise of women, carried 
branches of vine in the festival from which came the name ; the 
deipnophoroi, women who, as mothers, carried food for the youths ; 
the arrephoroi (or ersephoroi), maidens who carried the mystic chest 

i Eccles. Hist, iii, 10 

2 So, in effect, Bingham, i, 6; Riddle, Christian Antiquities, p. 134; Migne, ad loc.; 
Smith and Cheetham's Diet, of Christ. Antiq. sub voce. 

3 Liddell and Scott, s. v., citing ^sch. Fr. 224. . . . 

4 In such cases as those mentioned by Pausanias, ii, 7, 11; vi, 20, 21, etc., or in civic or 
royal processions. 


with nameless contents in the festival of Panathenaea ; the lampa- 
dophoroi, who carried torches in the torch-races ; and so on. Always 
the meaning is the literal carrying of something. Hermes with the 
ram on his shoulders (the admitted origin of the Christian image of 
the Good Shepherd 1 ) is Hermes Kriophoros, the ram-bearer. Only 
secondarily and indirectly could the word Theophoros come to have 
the meaning of "possessed by the God"; and the instance cited by 
Liddell and Scott, 2 in which the phrase is " pains of inspiration," 
is clearly in close connection with the primary meaning. In all 
probability the name Theophoros at times became a family one, 
just as that of Nikephoros, " Victory-bearer," 3 which continued to 
subsist long after Pagan times among Christians. On the other 
hand, we know that in the Attic theatre one of the seats officially 
reserved was allotted to the Iacchophoros, the bearer of the statue of 
Iacchos in the Eleusinian procession, 4 the designation in this case 
remaining an official title. Either way, we are dealing with a 
common and recognized ritual practice ; and we have every reason 
to infer that the generic name Christophoroi must have had some 
solider basis than an analogy from a metaphor. 

That the Christian myth of the Christ-birth is a concoction from 
previous myths, we have already seen ; and that the borrowing was 
first made by way of " mystery " or ritual, the Catacomb remains 
go far to prove. We know too that in the Egyptian system, apart 
from the practice of carrying the new-born Sun-Child to exhibit 
him to the people, 5 there was a whole order of Pastophoroi, bearers 
of the pastos, who according to one theory bore a shawl in the 
mysteries of Isis and Osiris, but " according to another interpre- 
tation " — and a much more tenable one — ■" were so denominated from 
carrying, not a shawl, but a shrine or small chapel, containing the 
image of the God." 6 These Pastophoroi were "a numerous and 
important body of men," who had allotted to them a part of the 
Egyptian temples, called the pastophorion — a term adopted by the 

1 See Smith and Cheetham's Diet, under " Good Shepherd." Cp. Lundy, Monumental 
Christianity, ch. vii ; Didron, Christian Iconography, Eng. tr. i, 339, 341, and the figures 
copied in Dr. Carus's art. in Open Court, December, 1899. This type also appears in 
Buddhist sculpture. 

2 From iEschylus, Agam. 1150. 3 See Athenseus, v, 27. 

4 Haigh, The Attic Theatre, 1889, p. 309. 

5 Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 18. It is important to remember that Macrobius says the 
child is carried ex adyto, out of the innermost sanctuary of the temple. The adytum " was 
almost certainly in its origin a cave; indeed, in Greece it was often wholly or partially 
subterranean, and is called fxtyapov which is the Semitic HI J?0 and means a cave " (Smith, 
Beligion of the Semites, p. 183 ; cp. Tiele, Egyptian Religion, p. 115). Here once more the 
Christian myth is led up to. 

6 Smith's Diet, of Gr. and Rom. Antiq., art. Pastophorus. Ed. 1849, p. 871. Compare 
Apuleius {Metamorphoses, bk. 11), who speaks of the Pastophori as carrying "the sacred 
images " and ' breathing effigies " (simulacra spirantia). See also last par. of the book. 


Jews in describing the temple of Jerusalem. 1 And they spread 
beyond Egypt, having a " college " or brotherhood at Industria, a 
city of Liguria. 2 Now, it may be argued that the term Christo- 
phoroi might be jocularly applied to Christians by analogy from 
these and other classes with the same name-suffix ; but that the 
Christians should have adopted it without some real reason is 
hardly supposable. And when we look into the admitted remains of 
early Christian ritual, we see at least hints of what the reason was. 
In early frescoes the Christian hierophant bears a pastos, or a kiste, 
analogous to the sacred chest of Dionysos. They would hardly 
carry the serpent, as the kiste did ; but their shrine or chest carried 

It might be, then, that this was only the sacred host, which to 
this day is " the good God " in Catholic countries. But whence 
then came the idea of making the mythic Christophoros, giant as he 
was, carry the child Christ ? I can see no explanation save one or 
all of three : (1) that the persistent Pagan charge against the early 
Christians of eating a child in their rites 4 rested on a ritual custom 
of exhibiting or eating the baked image of a child, 5 a rite to which, 
as being a sacred mystery, 6 the Christians were unwilling to confess ; 7 

1 1 Maccabees, iv, 38. 

2 Smith's Diet, as above, citing Maffei, Mus.tyeron. p. 230. Apuleius locates a college 
of them at Cenchrese. 

3 See Boma Sotteranea, ed. 1879, i, 362. PI. xi. 

4 Justin Martyr, Apol. i, 26 ; ii, 12 ; Eusebius, Eccles. Hist, v, 1 ; Athenagoras, Apol. c. 3 ; 
Origen, Against Celsus, vi, 27 ; Min. Felix, cc. 9, 10, 30, 31 ; Tertullian, Apolog. cc. 7, 8, 9. 

5 Note the image on the platter of the ' Magus," referred to above, § 12. Baked images 
were known in the sacrifices of the poor in antiquity (Herodotus, ii, 47) ; and in Mexico 
dough images of the God were eaten sacramentally. See H. H. Bancroft, Native Races of 
tlie Pacific States, iii, 297-300, 389; ii, 321. A very extensive list of cases in which either a 
baked or an unbaked image of a child or adult is ceremonially eaten in ancient and 
modern times is given by Dr. Frazer, Golden Bough, 1st ed, ii, 68, 79-84, and notes. 
Macrobius (Saturnalia, i, 7) gives accounts of the substitution of images for human heads 
as sacrifices to Hades, and again of heads of garlic and poppy for human heads in sacrifice 
to the Goddess Mania, mother of the Lares. Yet again, Ovid (Fasti, v, 621-31) tells of the 
substitution of rush or straw images for old men formerly sacrificed in the worship of 
Vesta. Mommsen, whose chapter (xii) on the religion of Rome is, as we have seen, a 
mosaic of incoherent generalizations, declares that ' it is only an unreflecting misconcep- 
tion that can discover in this usage a reminiscence of ancient human sacrifices." He then 
explains that the Romans acted in the spirit of their merchants, who were legally free to 
" fulfil their contracts merely in the letter "; that they in all seriousness practised " a pious 
cunning, which tried to delude and pacify" the deity " by means of a sham satisfaction." 
Of what then was it a sham ? 

6 The existence of secret mysteries among the early Christians after the second century 
is abundantly shown in Clarkson's Discourse concerning Liturgies (Select Works, Wycliffe 
Society's ed. 1846, pp. 266-277). And see Dr. Edwin Hatch's posthumous work, The Influence 
of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, 1890, pp. 292-305, where it is frankly 
admitted that the Christians imitated Pagan methods. In practising secrecy in particular 
the Christians only followed the general Pagan usage. Compare Clarkson's citations 
with Herodotus, passim. 

7 See Tertullian, Apology, c. 7, where the denial is anything but straightforward. We 
may rest content with an orthodox explanation: "The method of celebrating baptism, 
confirmation, and the eucharist ; the nature and effect of these ordinances ; the sublime 
doctrine of the Trinity ; and the Creed and Lord's Prayer, were only communicated to 
converts about the time of their baptism. Christians were absolutely prohibited from 
revealing this information to catechumens or infidels; and whenever the early Christian 
writers speak on such topics (except when controversy compels them to a different course) 
there is usually some reserve in their manner, some reference to the peculiar knowledge 

of the faithful This primitive discipline is sufficient to account for the facts that very 

few allusions to the liturgy or eucharistic service are found in the writings of the Fathers ; 


or (2) that in the Christian celebration a real or dummy child was 
actually carried in the sacred basket, just as Dionysos was in his, or 
as Horos was represented in Egypt, and as a child may have been in 
the rites of Mithra ; or (3) that the many representations of the 
carrying of a Divine Child by Hermes or by Herakles in Greek 
sculpture or painting, or the figure of the God Bes carrying Horos, 1 
may have set illiterate Christians, after the fall of Paganism, upon 
the framing of an explanatory Christian tale. And all three theories 
are so probable, and so much implicated one with the other, that we 
are not free to reject any. As to what may seem to many readers 
the most unlikely of all — the eating of the baked image of a child — 
there is really most evidence. It is an admitted historic fact that in 
some of the churches, after the abandonment of the practice of eating 
an actual lamb in the eucharist at Easter, there arose the practice, 
which still subsists in Italy, of eating a baked image of a lamb. 
Without suggesting a similar process of substitution, we may reason- 
ably surmise that the infans far re contectus of the Pagan charge 3 was 
really a model of a child in dough, after the manner of so many pagan 
cults in all ages. The more closely we look into Christian myth 
taken in connection with the distinct records of pre-Christian ritual, 
the more clear does it become that the accepted notions of the rise 
of the cult are hopelessly wide of the facts. 

First as to the charge of ritual child-eating. On this obscure 
problem it has to be remembered that among primitive peoples the 
sacrificing of infants has been common. The. plain traces of the 
sacrifice of the first-born child in the Hebrew code 4 are clearer in 
the light of similar usages among primitives in Africa 5 and North 
America. 6 Among primitives, as among the Semites, it is clear, the 
sacrifice of a child has been commonly regarded as of special efficacy. 7 

and that on the more solemn part of consecration, etc., they are almost entirely silent" 
(Rev. W. Palmer, Origines Liturgicce, 4th ed. i, 14; cp. p. 33). See also the Rev. W. 
Trollope's edition of the Greek Liturgy of St. James, 1848, p. 15: " The Fathers in general, 
when speaking of the Eucharist, enter as little as possible into detail." Mr. Trollope's 
explanation— that they feared to expose the mysteries to ribaldry— is clearly inadequate, 
and contains but a small part of the probable truth. He comes to the conclusion that no 
liturgy was published till late in the fourth century, when the Church was no longer in 
fear of its enemies. The just inference is that, when the popularity of the cult made the 
old secrecy impossible, its ritual was to a large extent shorn of the grosser usages derived 
from Paganism. If the eucharist ritual all along was just what was set down in the Gospels, 
why should the early Fathers have kept up any air of mystery? 

1 See Wiedemann, Belig. of Anc. Egyptians, Eng. tr. p. 164. 

2 Hatch, as cited, p. 300; Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church, B. xv, ch. ii, 
sec. 3. See Pagan Christs, p. 134, as to the use of a confectionery image of a lamb, with 
an actual killed lamb and Easter eggs, by modern Catholics. 

s Minucius Felix, c. 9. i Cp. Pagan Christs, p. 144. 

5 Rev. J. Macdonald, Light in Africa, 1890, p. 156. 

6 Lafitau, Moeurs des sauvages ameriquains, 1724, i, 181 ; J. G. Muller, Amerikanischen 
Urreligionen, pp. 58, 212, 214, 325. 

? Cp. A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-speaMng Peoples of the Gold Coast, 1887, p. 171; Mariner, 
Tonga Islands, 1827, i, 190-1, 300 ; ii, 22, 177 ; Dimeschqui, cited by Bastian, Der Mensch, iii, 
107; Rhys, Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom, pp. 201-2; Pausanias, viii, 2; Old New 
Zealand, by a Pakeha Maori, ch. 8, end. Cp. Pagan Christs, pp. 144 ff. 



Among the old Mexicans they were frequent. 1 Indeed, " until the 
beginning of the present century the custom of offering a first-born 
child to the Ganges was common." 2 And the step from the sacrifice 
to the sacramental meal is short. Open instances 3 suggest the likeli- 
hood of secret ones. 4 In the civilizations of antiquity, others than 
the Christians were accused of killing children in religious rites. 
They made the charge against the pagans; 5 it is expressly made 
also against the Hebrews in their own sacred books ; 6 and the atrocity 
seems to have been well known in other races. 7 Thus, to say nothing 
of the Carthaginians and other Semites, Juvenal 8 alleges that the 
Armenian and Syrian haruspices at Rome would sometimes augur 
from the entrails of a boy ; and, " according to Mohammedan 
accounts, the Harranians in the Middle Ages annually sacrificed an 
infant, and, boiling down its flesh, baked it into cakes, of which only 
freeborn men were allowed to partake." 9 Here, too, of course, there 
is room for doubt, as there is again in regard to the statement of 
Procopius 10 that the Franks in the sixth century sacrificed children 
to idols. But all these records are in a measure countenanced by 
the Greek tradition that at Potniae in Boeotia it was for a time the 
custom to sacrifice a boy to Dionysos, till the God accepted a goat as 
victim instead. 11 That the victim — whether bull or goat or lamb- 
was sacrificed and eaten as the God, is certain ; and in view of the 
myth of the dismemberment and eating of the boy Dionysos by the 
Titans, it is difficult to doubt that at Potniae a boy was sacramentally 
slain and eaten till men revolted at the rite. 12 And the decisive fact 
remains that the Christians retained for their sacramental food the 

1 Pagan Christ s, pp. 376, 379, 383, 388. 

2 Crooke, Religion and Folklore of Northern India, 1896, ii, 169. 

3 Brough Smith, Aborigines of Victoria, ii, 311, cited by Frazer, G.B., ii, 51 ; Spencer and 
Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, 1889, p. 475; J. G. Miiller, Amerikanischen 
Urreligionen, pp. 502-3; Cieza de Leon, cited by Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 
2nd ed. i, 199. 

4 Cp. Mockler-Ferryman, British West Africa, 2nd ed. 1900, pp. 41-42. 

5 Tertullian, Apologeticus, ix. 

6 Isaiah, lvii, 5 ; Ezekiel, xvi, 20. 'The many references in the prophetic and historic 
books to the practice of passing children " through the fire to Molech " seem clearly to 
flsspft cTiild-SAjCrificp 

7 Cp. Bastian, Der Mensch in der Geschichte, 1860, iii, 103, 105, 107, 108. 

8 vi, 548-552. As to the sacrificing of boys, see the passage in Horace, Epod. v, which 
evidently preserves trace of an ancient usage. 

9 Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 348, citing the Fihrist, and Chwolsohn. 
Cp. the note of Elmenhorstius in Ouzel's ed. of Minucius Felix (1672, p. 87) as to the 
ancient eucharistic practice of making bread with the blood of a child, which might or 
might not die. And see in Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire, ii, 389, the story 
of how the people of Pergamos, when besieged by the Arabs in 717, took a pregnant girl, 
cut up the mother and the foetus, boiled them, and so made an unguent for the soldiers' 

10 Gothica. i, 25. Cp. Mahon, Life of Belisarius, 2nd. ed. p. 262. 

11 Pausanias, ix, 8. The passage suggests further that at one time the priest of Dionysos 
was annually slain as his representative, till the priest contrived to change the theory of 
the ritual. 

12 Cp. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 490. It should be noted that Dr. Dieterich and 
Miss Harrison (id. p. 493) have resolved the " Titans" into titanoi, the men covered with 
white clay or gypsum Uitanos) who figured in the rite. 


old name of hostia, "the victim," and that the Gospels 1 all dwell on 
the eating and drinking of the God's body and blood with a literalness 
that is unintelligible on the hypothesis of mere originating allegory. 
It is true that for the ancients it was a common-place to call bread 
"Ceres," and wine "Liber" or "Dionysos"; 2 but that was just 
because in a special and peculiar sense Ceres and Liber stood for the 
sources of bread and wine, and might with literal fitness be so called 
in the ritual of their cult ; whereas the Christ myth has on the face 
of it no such pretext. The whole series of the later Fathers 
anxiously explain that the Gospel phrase is figurative ; but no one 
ever explains why such a revolting figure should have been used. 
They had need deny the literal meaning, which laid them open to 
just such reproaches as they were wont to cast at the pagans ; but 
it is clear that in the shadow of the Church there always subsisted 
a concrete conception, which finally took the doctrinal form of 
Transubstantiation. And as it is now an admitted principle of 
comparative hierology that where there is a sacred banquet in con- 
nection with a worship, with a specified sacred food, it is the God 
that is eaten, we may take it as highly probable that just as some 
Christian groups ate a baked image of a lamb, others would carry 
the freedom of symbolism further and make a dough image of a 
child, herein anticipating the usages of pre-Christian Mexico. The 
lamb itself was the symbol of the God ; and the disuse of an actual 
lamb was doubtless motived by the then not uncommon Orphic 
dislike to the eating of flesh. 3 But there were abundant precedents, 
arising often out of simple poverty, for the substitution or sacrifice 
of a baked dough image for the animal which the ritual called for. 4 
A baked image, after all, would still be a symbol ; and when once 
the symbolism had gone so far, there was no reason why the 
mystic God should not be represented in the shape of a child, as 
of old. 

When nothing in human or animal form was baked for the old 
cult-offerings, the mere round cake (often marked by a cross, as in 
the hot-cross-bun still in Christian use) stood for the God or Goddess 
as Sun or Moon ; and this is the explanation of the Catholic wafer, 
reverently described and worshipped as "Jesus" or "God" in 
Anglican High Church ritual at the present time. Jesus is there 
revealed by his devoutest worshippers as a Sun- God. But there is 
no evidence for an early use of the wafer ; which indeed was too 

1 See Matt, xxvi, 26-28 ; Mark xiv, 22-24 ; Luke xxii, 19-20 : John vi, 48-58. 

2 Cicero, Be Nat. Beor. iii, 16; Clemens Alexandrinus, Protrept. ii. (Trans, in Ante- 
Nicene Lib. p. 34.) 

3 Cp. Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 479 sq. 4 Cp. Bastian, as cited, iii, 112-124. 


close to pagan sun-worship 1 in the pagan period to be readily- 
acceptable by a sect desirous of marking itself off from its leading 
competitors. It was apparently adopted with other institutions of 
sun-worship after the Pagan cults were disestablished, when the 
Church could safely use their symbols and turn their usages to 
economic account — economic in both senses of the term, since the 
priestly miracle of the Eucharist was one of the main grounds of 
ecclesiastical influence and revenue, and the wafer withal was 
extremely cheap. 

Alike then as to the Gospel myth and the charge of child-eating, a 
baked image seems the probable solution. And that this rite, like the 
others, was borrowed from previous cults, is proved by a remarkable 
passage in Pliny as to the praise due to the Eoman people for 
" having put an end to those monstrous rites " in which " to murder 
a man was to do an act of the greatest devoutness, and to eat his 
flesh was to secure the highest blessings of health." 2 It is not clear 
that this refers to the Druids, 3 mentioned in the context ; in any 
case there are many reasons for holding that a sacrament of 
theophagy was in pre-historic times widely practised; 4 and even if 
the sacramental and theophagous usages which chronically revived 
or obscurely persisted among the Jews 5 he held to have died out 
among them at the beginning of the Christian era, the Christians 
seem to have had alongside of them, in the cult of Dionysos, an 
example which they were as likely to follow as that of the Mithraic 
resurrection-ritual and Lord's Supper. The survival of a symbolical 
cannibalism — the eating of the baked image of a child — in the 
Dionysian mysteries, 6 is the most probable explanation of the late 

1 The usage was to eat round panicula after a sacrifice. Pollux, Onomasticon, vi, 6. 
Cp. Suetonius, in Vitell. c. 13, and Smith's Diet, of Ant., art. Canephoros. See the question 
of the pagan origin of the wafer discussed in Roma Antiqua et Recens, ed. 1889, pp. 44-5. 

2 Hist. Nat. xxx, 4. 

3 But see Strabo, bk. iv, c. iv, § 5, where the Druidical sacrifices are specified, with the 
remark that the victims are said to have been crucified in the temples— another noteworthy 
clue to the Christian myth. 

4 It has been ingeniously argued by Professor Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, 
pp. 341-6) that human sacrifices did not ante-date those of animals, but came to be substi- 
tuted for these at a time when the early way of regarding the animal as a member of the 
tribe had become psychologically obsolete. This view has been confidently endorsed by 
M. Reinach (Cultes, Mythes, et Religions, i, 16, etc.). The great difficulties in the way of such 
a theory are (1) that, even if primitive men sacrificed animals as members of the tribe, 
they had still a psychic reason for selecting the animals ; (2) that among known primitives 
human sacrifice has always been common ; and (3) that in most of the civilized cults of 
antiquity human sacrifice figured as a far-off thing, while the animal sacrifice survived. 
Cp. Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 7. Human sacrifices, further, were in many cases avowedly 
superseded, as we have already noted, by offerings of images, where animal sacrifices went 
on. (Cp. Crooke, Religion and Folklore of Northern India, ed. 1896, ii, 167.) In any case, 
the habit of eating the sacrificed animal would psychologically involve the eating of the 
sacrificed man, which is the point in hand. As to the deification of the victim, see Smith, 
as cited, and Frazer's Golden Bough, 1st ed. ch. iii. 

5 Compare Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, pp. 336-340. 

6 Clemens (as cited; trans, pp. 27, 30, 33) distinctly associates the eating of "raw flesh" 
with the mystery in which the rending of the child Dionysos by the Titans was comme- 
morated; and probably some groups continued to eat one of the God's symbol-animals, 
while others substituted images, as among the Christists. 


myth of the Titans rending the child Dionysos in pieces, and further 
of the myth of the rending of Orpheus, which was bound up with 
the Dionysiak. Though the former tale was allegorically understood 
of the spread of vine-culture, 1 that would hardly account for its 
invention ; nor would the allegory put a stop to the ritual practice. 

A connection between the child-carrying and the ritual of child- 
eating, again, is brought out in the peculiarly parallel case of the 
ritual of the arrephoroi or bearers of " nameless things " in the cult 
of Erichthonios at Athens. 2 The explanation of the myth of the 
child in the chest that was not to be opened is probably that given 
by Miss Harrison, 3 to the effect that the Kistae carried by the 
maidens contained figures of a child and a snake. These figures 
would hardly be of marble, which would be impossibly heavy : they 
are likely enough to have been of baked flour. But the myth of 
Erichthonios, born of Gaia, 4 the Earth, is only a variant of that of 
Dionysos, born of Demeter, the Earth Mother, or of Semele, equally 
the Earth ; 5 and again of that of Agdistis, borne by the Earth to 
Jupiter. 6 We have seen that the Divine Child figured in the birth- 
ritual of Dionysos as in that of Horos ; and as the images in the 
other rituals would have a sacrosanct virtue, the eating of them 
sacramentally would be a natural sequence. In the artistic treat- 
ment of the myth of Erichthonios, as Miss Harrison points out, the 
lid of the chest is of wicker-work. The whole may well have been a 
basket, like the lihnon of Dionysos. 7 On that view the carrying of 
the image was simply a variant of the usage of carrying an actual 
child — a practice always open to the objection that the child might 
at any moment take to crying. In ordinary animal sacrifice it was 
considered fatal to the efficacy of the rite if the victim showed any 
reluctance ; 8 and even if the child were not to be sacrificed, his 
crying would be apt to pass for a bad omen. 

1 Preller, Griech. Myth, i, 554 ; Diodorus Siculus, iii, 62. 

2 Pausanias, i, 18, 27. 

3 Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens, 1890, pp. xxvi-xxxv. 

5 Sir George Cox (Mythol. of Aryan Nations, ed. 1882, p. 260, note) observes that "no 
Greek derivation has been attached to this name, which certainly cannot be explained by 
reference to any Greek word." But it has not been noted that in modern Servia to-day 
Semlje is actually the word for the Earth. And the Servians have many mythic ideas in 
common with the Greeks. See Ranke, History of Servia, Eng. trans, pp. 42-43. [The 
identification of Semele with the earth is now established by Miss Harrison, Prolegomena, 
p. 404.] 6 Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, v, 5, 10. 

7 But cp. the Eleusinian formula :— "1 have received from the box ; having done, I put 
it in the basket, and out of the basket into the chest" (Clemens, Protrept. ii, trans, cited, 
p. 32). There is a resemblance between this and the Phrygian formula in the worship of 
Cybele, cited by the same author ( Id. p. 29) :— " I have eaten out of the drum, I have drunk 
out of the cymbal, I have carried the Cernos [said by the scholiasts to be a fan=Ztfc?io?ij, 
I have slipped into the bedroom." Cp. Firmicus, Be Errore, 19. For an explanation of 
the Phrygian ritual as that of a " sacred marriage" see Miss Harrison, Proleg., pp. 534-6. 

8 As to the same idea in connection with the sacred victim among the Khonds, see 
Frazer, Golden Bough, 1st ed. i, 386-7. 

9 Compare however, the sinister process of primitive casuistry by which the Mexicans 


Given, however, the pre-Christian existence of a child-carrying 
rite, as observed in the Egyptian and Mithraic cults, or as practised 
in the Dionysia, and given the adoption of this rite by Christism, 
the idea of making the mythic Giant Christophoros separately carry 
the Christ-child across a river, it might be supposed, could be grafted 
fortuitously on the old ritual-motive. It being necessary to have a 
story of the child being carried somewhere, a river was a possible 
enough invention. But here again the hypothesis is upset when we 
turn to the light which Professor Weber so strangely ignored — that 
of the mythology of Greece. The carrying of a Divine Child by a 
Divine Person — a very small child by a very big person — is one of 
the commonest figures in Greek religious art. It may or may not 
have been derived from the Egyptian motive of Bes and the babe- 
God Horos. In Hindu pictures the babe Krishna is carried by 
Vasudeva in its swaddling clothes. In Greek sculpture Hermes 
carries the babe Dionysos " carefully wrapped up " to his nurses. 
At times he bears it on his shoulder. 1 He also carries the boy to 
heaven. 2 In the drama of Euripides he carries the swaddled and 
cradled child Ion to the temple. 3 Similarly he carries the infant 
Aristaeus, the Sun-Child, from his mother to the nourishing Hours ; 4 
and he carries in turn the child Herakles. 5 Yet again, as Psycho- 
pompos, he carries Psyche over the Styx; 6 and here, in a myth- 
motive, we have a marked parallel to the ritual motive of the river- 
crossing in the Krishna tale. And this recurs, for we have Herakles 
represented carrying Zeus over the water, " a still enigmatical repre- 
sentation," says Muller. 7 Herakles, yet again, carries his own 
infant Telephos in his hand or arm ; 8 and Telephos is a Divine 
Child, figuring in a Birth-Ritual in swaddling clothes. 9 Yet again, 
we have the myth of Orion carrying the boy Cedalion 10 — a tale 
explicable only as derived from an astrological picture or a sculpture. 
On vases, too, we have Peleus holding the child Achilles, 11 and so 
on — the representations are endless. How far the motive may have 
been ritually associated with a passing over water 12 it is difficult to 

in sacrificing their children, sought to feel that the inevitable tears were the promise of 
abundant rain and harvest (Pagan Christs, Part iv, " The Religions of Ancient America," § 4.) 

1 K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, pp. 492-4 ; Apollodorus, bk. iv, c. iii, § 2. 

2 Pausanias, iii, 18. 3 Ion, 31-40, 1597-1600. 

4 Pindar, Pythia, ix, 95-97. 5 Muller, Ancient Art, p. 554. 

6 Id. p. 486. 

7 Id. p. 562. Compare the myth of Typhon carrying the disabled Zeus over the sea on 
his shoulders. Apollodoros, I, vi, 3. Dionysos himself, in one myth, carries Hephaistos, 
drunk, to heaven (Paus. i, 20). These three seem to correlate, and point to art or sculpture. 

8 Muller. p. 558. 9 Id. p. 559. 

10 See K. O. Muller, Introd. to Mythol., App. on Orion, pp. 336-9. 

11 Id. p. 571. 

12 Dionysos, we know, was lord of the whole element of moisture (Plutarch, I. and 0.35), 
and in one myth passes as an adult over the sea (above, p. 100)— a solar item, which might 
very well be symbolized in the ritual of the Babe-Sun-God. In many Hindu ceremonies, 


decide ; but when we are asked to believe that the Christophoros 
legend, in which Pagan myth and art and ritual were eked out with 
Christian fiction, so impressed the Hindus at an early period in our 
era that they transferred it bodily to the worship of their God 
Krishna, it is difficult to take the suggestion seriously. Once more, 
the carrying of the child Krishna across the mythological river by 
Vasudeva is naturally embedded in the Krishna legend ; while in 
Christian mythology the story is patently alien, arbitrary, and 
unmotived, save in so far as it rests on the ancient epithet Christo- 
phoros ; on the familiar presentment of Hermes or Herakles carry- 
ing a Divine Child, at times over water ; on the figure of Bes 
carrying Horos ; and on the inferrible usage of carrying a child or 
an image representing the new-born God in early Christian ritual. 
And, finally — a noteworthy coincidence — the festival day of St. 
Christopher is placed in the Roman Catholic Calendar on the 
25th day of July, precisely at the time of year when, in the Hindu 
ritual, and almost certainly in the early Hindu drama, Vasudeva 
would be represented as carrying Krishna across the river. Clearly 
the Indian date cannot be borrowed from the Christian : it depends 
on the Birth Festival, which is as wide as possible of the Christian 
Nativity. It will need some satisfactory explanation of St. Chris- 
topher's date on other lines to destroy the possibility of the surmise 
that it was determined by the Hindu practice ; and in any case we 
must infer a non-Christian origin. 

§ 14. Indian and Christian Religious Drama. 

In an argument which so often insists on the priority of dramatic 
ritual to written legend, it may be well to take passing note of the 
state of opinion as to the origin and history of Indian drama. On 
that as on so many other points, Weber is found surmising Greek 
influence, and so putting the great period of the Hindu theatre com- 
paratively late. It is needless here to go into that question fully. 
The points for us are that in any case Hindu drama was highly 
developed at a period before the suggested importation of Christian 
legends ; and that, since in all early civilizations ritual and drama 

again, water is devotionally employed as being the product of the sun. One suspects the 
same myth-motive in the story of the kingly child Pyrrhus of Achillean descent being 
carried across a river, when flying from pursuers, in the arms of a man named Achilles. 
Pyrrhus in the story is put on his father's throne by force at the age of twelve— a very 
mythical-looking narrative (Plutarch, Pericles, cc. 2, 3). Again, the people of Clazomente 
had a grotto called the grotto of Pyrrhus' mother— presumably a Birth Cave— and a tradi- 
tion about Pyrrhus as a shepherd (Pausanias, vii, 5). Apparently Pyrrhus was mythically 
handled very much as was Cyrus before him. 

1 (< This was also, as already noted, the first day of the Egyptian year ; and the festival of 
the " Birthday of the Eyes of Horos " was held on that day or the day preceding. 


were closely related because originally one, 1 there must have been an 
abundance of sacred drama in India before the Christian era, as 
there has been since. We have seen the concrete proof of this in 
the admitted existence of an early religious drama in which figured 
the demonic Kansa as enemy of Krishna. And even if Greek 
influences did affect Hindu dramatic practice after the invasion of 
Alexander, even to the extent of bringing Western mystery-ritual 
into the Indian (a sufficiently unlikely thing), the fact would remain 
that India had these ritual elements from pre-Christian sources. 

As usual, Weber fails to raise the question of the origin of the 
Western usage which he supposed the Hindus to have copied. Yet, 
seeing that Greek drama originates in the cult of Dionysos, latterly 
the God of wine, and that the deification of the Soma in the Vedas 
is analogous to that of Dionysos as God of Beer, of whose early cult 
the tragos (spelt) song is the basis of tragosdia, 2 nothing can be more 
pertinent than to ask whether a religious drama did not similarly 
arise in Asia. Religious "plays" are even now invented among 
aborigines in Africa, 3 and in the face of such compositions as the 
Book of Job and the Song of Solomon it is idle to suggest that the 
Greeks alone could evolve drama. Yet the Professor frames his 
theory of imitation, as before, without even facing the fundamental 
issue in this connection. 4 

Inasmuch as Weber's argumentation on Indian matters is in a 
manner interconnected, and his theory of dramatic imitation tends 
to prop up his theory of religious imitation, it may be pointed out 
that his opinion on the dramatic question is widely at variance with 
that of other distinguished Indianists. Wilson, whom Weber more 
than once cites in self-support on other questions, is here very 
emphatically opposed to him. " It is not improbable," says Weber, 
"that even the rise of the Hindu drama was influenced by the 
performance of the drama at the courts of Greek kings." 5 Says 
Wilson, on the other hand : — 

11 Whatever may be the merits or defects of the Hindu drama, it may be 
safely asserted that they are unmixedly its own. The science of the 

1 Cp. the Catholic Professor Neve, Essai stir I 'origine et les sources du drame indien 
(in Les Epoaties UtUraires de I 'Inde, 1883), pp. 273, 284, as to the Hindu case in particular. 
Weber (History of Indian Literature, p. 196 sq.), noting that the Hindu name for drama 
points to its origin in dancing, at first declined to admit that the religious character of the 
dancing had been established. But in his Indische Studien (cited in his note to the History, 
p. 198) he modifies his opinion. 

2 See the whole argument in Miss Harrison's Prolegomena, pp. 413-421— a triumph of 
vigilant scholarship. 

3 Partridge, Cross River Natives, 1905, pp. 211, 261. 

4 Though he of course discusses the origin of Indian drama in his History of Indian 
Literature. Neve, in his Essai sur I 'origine et les sources du drame indien, barely glances 
at our problem. 5 Berlin lecture cited, p. 25= Indische Skizzen, p. 28. 


Hindus may be indebted to modern discoveries in other regions, and their 
mythology may have derived legends from Paganism or Christianity ; but it 
is impossible that they should have borrowed their dramatic compositions 

from other people either of ancient or modern times The Hindus, if they 

learned the art from others, can have been obliged alone to the Greeks or to 
the Chinese. A perusal of the Hindu plays will show how little likely it is 
that they are indebted to either, as, with the exception of a few features in 
common which could not fail to occur, they present characteristic varieties 
of conduct and construction, which strongly evidence both original design 
and national development." 1 

Probably no one who reads Wilson's translations and compares 
them with the classic drama and, say, the Chinese Lacnt-Seng-Urh, 2 
will have much hesitation in acceding to Wilson's opinion. Nor is 
Lassen less emphatic. " In the oldest Buddhist writings," he points 
out, " a visit of play-actors is spoken of as something customary "; 3 
and he insists again 4 " that the dramatic art in India is a growth 
wholly native to the soil, without foreign influence in general or 
Greek in particular." The origination of Indian drama, he adds, in 
the former passage, " must certainly be put before the time of the 
second Asoka ; how much earlier it is naturally impossible to say." 
Anyone who reads Wilson's version of the Mrichchakati, " The Toy 
Cart," dated by him between a century B.C. and the second century 
C.E., and by Prof. Regnaud between 250 and 620, 5 will I think be 
convinced that the " origination " must be carried a very long way 
back. 6 That drama really represents in some respects a further 
evolution, though not a higher pitch of achievement, than the drama 
of Greece, and could only have been possible after a very long 
process of artistic development ; hence Kalidasa may well belong, 
as Weber suggests, and as Regnaud concludes, to a later period than 
is commonly supposed. 7 But this still leaves the beginnings of 
Indian drama very far off. And seeing that the common people in 
modern times still played the history of Rama on his festival day, 8 
apparently following a custom of older date than the Ramayana 
poem itself, it is a reasonable conjecture that the literary drama 
arose in India, as in Greece, ou6 of the representations at the 

1 Theatre of the Hindus, pref. pp. xi, xii. Cp. Neve, as cited, p. 289. 

2 Eng. trans. London, 1817. Cp. the Brief View of the Chinese Drama prefixed. 

3 Indische Alter thumsTcunde, ii, 502. See Korosi's analysis of the Tibetan " Dulva," in 
Asiatic Besearches, xx, 50, the testimony cited by Lassen. The antiquity of much of the 
"Dulva" is disputed by Weber, Hist, of Ind. Lit. Eng. tr. p. 199. But cp. p. 198, note 210. 

4 Ind. Alt. ii, 1157. 

5 Trans, of the Mrichchakati, 1876, pref. p. 12. Lassen {Ind. Alt. ii, 1160) dates the play 
about the end of the first century c.e.; Weber (Indische Studien, ii, 148) in the second 
century. See Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, ii, 11. 

6 Cp. Neve, as cited, p. 287. 

7 Weber, Hist, of Ind. Lit. pp. 200-207; Eegnaud, as cited. 

8 See the Asiatic Besearches, i, 258 ; and the Asiatic Journal, iv, 130, 185, N. S. 


religious festivals. It has certainly small trace of the Greek spirit :* 
it is much more akin to the romantic drama of modern Europe. 

For the rest, there is probably no connection with the theatre in 
the meaning of the name Devaki, which, it appears, has only loosely 
and indirectly the significance of " the Divine Lady," and strictly 
means " the player " or " she-player." Weber translates it Spielerinn, 
and Senart joueuse, with no allusion to any theatrical significance. 2 
Nor can I find any explanation of the phrases : " I, who am a person 
of celestial nature, a mortal Vastideva," and "I, a man of rank, a 
Vasudeva," occurring in The Toy Cart, 3 save Wilson's note on the 
former passage that Vasudeva = Krishna. These passages do not 
seem to have been considered in the discussions on Krishnaism. 
They serve, however, to repeat, if that be necessary, the refutation 
of the Christian thesis that the name Vasudeva was based on that of 
Joseph ; and Wilson's note indicates sufficiently his conviction of 
the antiquity of Krishnaism. In Act v of the same play (p. 90) 
the epithet Kesava ("long-locked," crinitus), constantly associated 
with Krishna, is without hesitation taken by him to apply to the 
same deity. It is one of the commonest characterizations of the 
Sun-God in all mythologies. 

The question as to the practice of dramatic ritual among the 
early Christians, of course, needs a fuller investigation than can be 
thus given to it in a mere comparison of Christism and Krishnaism. 
Suffice it here to say that already orthodox scholarship is proceeding 
to trace passages in the apostolic Epistles to surmised ancient 
liturgies ; and that such a passage as opens the third Sermon of 
St. Proclus 5 (Bishop of Constantinople, 432-446), comparing the 
Pagan and Christian festivals with only a moral differentiation ; the 
repeated exhortations, in his fourth Sermon, to mothers, fathers, and 
children to " come and see " the Virgin and the swaddled child in the 
cradle ; 6 his long account (Sermon vi) of the dialogue between Joseph 

1 The remark of Donaldson (Theatre of the Greeks, 7th ed. p. 7, note) that "the Indian 
stage, even if aboriginal, may have derived its most characteristic features from the 
Greek," is professedly based on the proposition that "there is every reason to believe "that 
Krishna "was an imported deity." K. O. Mtiller (Hist, of the Lit. of Anc. Greece, ch. xxi, 
§ 2) asserts incidentally that " The dramatic poetry of the Indians belongs to a time when 
there had been much intercourse between Greece and India," but offers no arguments, and 
presumably follows some earlier Indianist. Weber, while leaning to the view of Greek 
origins, admits (Hist. p. 207) that "no internal connection with the Greek drama exists." 

2 Weber, Ueber dieK., pp. 316, 318; Senart, p. 323. Senart points out, however, that in 
the Mahabharata the father of Devaki is a Gandharva— i.e., a 'singer of heaven." 

3 Theatre of the Hindus, i, 28, 145. Cp. p. 26, n. 

4 See the article of Dr. Jessop in the Expositor, June, 1889. 

5 Migne. Patrologice Cursus Completus, Series Grceca, torn. 65. 

6 Serm. iv, 2, Col. 711. The representation as thus described followed the apocryphal 
Gospels in placing the birth in a cave. But instead of the "ox and ass" of the normal 
show (which would then be too notoriously Pagan) there are mentioned the "ass and 
foal" of the entrance into Jerusalem. Col. 713. There appears to have been a whole 
crowd of New Testament figures, including Paul. 


and Mary ; and in general all his allusions to festivals and mysteries, 
point clearly to a close Christian imitation of Pagan dramatic 
practices. 1 It is further a matter not of conjecture, but of history, 
that the old play on the " Suffering Christ " is to be attributed to 
Gregory of Nazianzun ; and Klein, the German historian of the 
drama, decides that the sacrament of the Mass or the Communion 
is " in itself already a religious drama, and is the original Mystery- 
play"; 2 a view accepted and echoed by the orthodox Ulrici, and 
independently advanced by Renan. 4 Klein has further traced, 
perhaps fancifully at some points, an interesting series of analogies 
between the early Christian liturgy and the Greek tragedy, which 
was essentially a religious service. M. Jubinal, again, in a sketch 
of the rise of the Mystery-plays, sums up that "the fifth century 
presents itself with its cortege of religious festivals, during which 
are simulated {on mime) or figured in the church the adoration of 
the Magi, the marriage of Cana, the death of the Saviour, etc." 5 
This statement, made without citations, is repeated by Klein, 6 who 
quotes as his authority merely the words of M. Jubinal ; and by 
Dr. Ulrici, 7 who, carrying the statement further, merely cites these 
two writers. Such defect of proof would be suspicious were it not 
for the above-cited evidence from Saint Proclus ; and, though that 
is so far decisive, there is evident need for a complete research. 
Milman has made little or none. Admitting that there were 
pantomimic spectacles at the martyr-festivals, he rejects the view 
that they represented the deaths of the martyrs, but says nothing as 
to the early mystery-plays, merely denying that plays such as that 
by Gregory were written for representation ; 8 and in his later work 
he discusses the Mysteries of the Middle Ages without attempting 
to trace their origin. 9 

A complete theory would have to deal with (l) the original 
mystery-plays which preceded and provided the gospel narrative; 
(2) the reduction of some or one of these to pseudo-history and their 
probable cessation {e.g., in the case of the Last Supper) as complete 
dramatic representations; 10 and (3) the later establishment of such 

1 The remark of the Countess Martinengo Cesaresco (art. Puer Parvulus in Contem- 
porary Review, January. 1900, p. 117), that " there was no actual cult of the infant Saviour 
till the thirteenth century," is clearly erroneous, though the explicit evidences to the 
contrary are not abundant. As we have seen, the narratives in the Apocryphal and other 
Gospels derive from the ancient cult. 

2 Qeschichte des Dramas, iv (=Gesch. des Ital. Dram, i), p. 2. 

3 Shakespeare's Dramatic Art, Bohn trans, i, 2. 

4 Etudes d'Histoire religieuse, p. 51. 

5 Mysteres IneditsduXVieme Siecle, 1837, pref. p. viii. _ . , . . 

6 As cited, iv, 11. 7 As cited, l, 4. 

8 History of Christianity, bk. iv, ch. 2, ed. Paris, 1840, ii, 320, 326. 

9 History of Latin Christianity, bk. xiv, ch. 4. 

10 An attempt to sketch this is made in Pagan Christs, Part ii. 


exhibitions as that of the Nativity, in the teeth of the ascetic 
objection to all forms of pleasurable art. Here, however, we can 
posit only the fact that such exhibitions did occur, and note that 
such a conclusion is supported by orthodox clerical statement. 
Dr. Murdock, discussing the Christian adoption of the Christmas 
festival, observes that 

" From the first institution of this festival, the Western nations seem to 
have transferred to it many of the follies and censurable practices which 
prevailed in the pagan festivals of the same season, such as adorning the 
churches fantastically, mingling puppet shows and dramas with worship, 
universal feasting and merry-making, visits and salutations, revelry and 
drunkenness." 1 

It is, indeed, one of the commonplaces of Protestant church 
historians that after the State establishment of Christianity it 
borrowed many observances from Paganism. 2 What the student 
has to keep in view is that these usages, especially such a one as 
that of " puppet shows and dramas," cannot have been suddenly 
grafted on a religious system wholly devoid of them. The Chris- 
tians certainly had the practice of celebrating some birthday of Christ 
long before the fourth century ; and we have seen some of the 
reasons for concluding that on that occasion they had a mystery- 
ritual. It is noteworthy, too, that the subjects first specified as 
appearing in Christian shows or plays were such as those which we 
know to have figured in the cults of Mithra and Dionysos, and in the 
Egyptian system. Further, it was exactly such subjects that were 
represented in the earliest medieval Mysteries of which copies 
remain ; and it was especially at Christmas and Easter that these 
were performed. It is hardly possible to doubt that these repre- 
sentations derive from the very earliest practices of the Christian 
sect, established when Paganism was still in full play. The 
dramatic character of the early Mysteries, which, as we have seen, 
were almost as inviolably secret as those of the Pagans, pierces 

1 Note on trans, of Mosheim, 4 Cent. pt. ii, ch. 4, § 5. 

2 See, for instance, Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. 3 Cent. pt. ii, ch. 4, § 3 ; 4 Cent. pt. ii, ch. 4, 
§ 1, 2 ; 5 Cent. pt. i, ch. 3, § 2, etc.; Gieseler, Compend. of Ec. Hist. Eng. tr. 1846, ii, 24-26, 
32, 51, 61, etc.; Waddington, Hist, of the Church, pp. 37, 212-4. Cp. Boma et Becens, 
1665, rep. 1889, Pacjano-Papismus, 1675, rep. 1844, and Middleton's Letter from Borne, 1729, 
etc., for detailed statements. For later views see Dyer, History of Borne, 1877, p. 295 ; Lord, 
The Old Boman World, 1873, p. 558; Maitland's Church in the Catacombs, 1846, p. 306; 
Seymore's Evenings ivith the Bomanists, 1844, p. 221; Merivale's Four Lectures on some 
Epochs of Early Church History; Lechler's Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times, p. 262; 
Frazer, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, 1906, ch. vi. See finally some very explicit Catholic admis- 
sions by Baronius, Epitome Annalium, a Spondano, Lugduni, 1686, p. 79 ; Polydore Vergil, 
De Inventoribus Berum, 1, 5, c. 1 ; Wiseman's Letters to John Poynder, Esq., 1836. But the 
most convincing proof of the permeation of the early Church by the paganism of the mass 
of the people is supplied by the wholesale survival of pagan beliefs in Christian Greece. 
As to this see J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Beligion, 1910, chs. 
i and ii, and p. 256, et passim. 


through the cautious writings of the Fathers, as read even by 
clerical eyes : — 

" Chrysostom most probably refers to the commemoration of our Saviour's 
deeds and words at the Last Supper, as used in the liturgy, when he 
attributes such great importance to the words of institution of our Lord, 
which he considers as still chiefly efficacious in the consecration of the 
eucharist. He often speaks of the eucharist under the title of an unbloody 
sacrifice Hl 

Other admissions are no less significant : — 

"There can be little, if any, doubt that Christian liturgies were not at 
first committed to writing, but preserved by memory and practice." "When 
we examine the remains of the Roman, Italian, Gallican, and Spanish 
liturgies, we find that they all permitted a variety of expression for every 

particular feast It appears to me that the practice of the western 

Churches during the fifth and fourth centuries, in permitting the use of 
various ' missae ' in the same church, affords room for thinking that some- 
thing of the same kind had existed from a remote period. For it does not 
seem that the composition of new ' missae ' for the festivals excited any 
surprise in these ages, or was viewed as anything novel in principle." 2 

That is to say, the first Christians, in their simple and illiterate way, 
tried to do what the Greeks had long done in their dramatic 
mysteries, which must have conformed in some degree to the creative 
tendency fulfilled on such a splendid scale in their public drama, 
itself a development of religious ritual. 3 

" The Eleusinian mysteries were, as an ancient writer [Clem. Alex. 
Protrept. p. 12, Potter] expresses it, 'a mystical drama,' in which the 
history of Demeter and Cora was acted, like a play, by priests and 
priestesses, though probably only with mimic action, illustrated by a few 
significant sentences, and by the singing of hymns. There were also 
similar mimic representations in the worship of Bacchus : thus, at the 
Anthesteria at Athens, the wife of the second archon, who bore the title 
of Queen, was betrothed to Dionysus in a secret solemnity, and in public 
processions even the God himself was represented by a man. [A beautiful 
slave of Nicias represented Dionysus on an occasion of this kind ; Plutarch, 
Nic. 3. Compare the description of the great Bacchic procession under 
Ptolemy Philadelphus in Athen. v.] At the Boeotian festival of the Agrionia, 
Dionysus was supposed to have disappeared, and to be sought for among the 
mountains; there was also a maiden (representing one of the nymphs in the 
train of Dionysus), who was pursued by a priest, carrying a hatchet, and 
personating a being hostile to the God. This festival rite, which is 
frequently mentioned by Plutarch, is the origin of the fable, which occurs 
in Homer, of the pursuit of Dionysus and his nurses by the furious 
Lycurgus." 4 

1 Palmer, Origines Liturgicce, i, 33. 

2 Id. pp. 9. 10. Cp. Mosheim, 4 Cent. pt. ii, ch. 4, § 3. 

3 K. O. Muller, Hist, of the Lit. of Anc. Greece, ch. xxi, § 2-5 ; xxvii, § 1. It is true that, 
as remarked by Fustel de Coulanges in La Cite Antique (8ieme. kd. p. 196), the words and 
rhythms of the hymns in the ancient domestic and civic rites were preserved unaltered ; 
but this would not apply to the later syncretic mysteries. 

4 Muller, as last cited, xxi, § 3 (Lewis' trans. 1847), pp. 287-8. 


The last proposition is one more application of the principle which 
has been so often followed in the present essay — that ritual usages 
are the fountains of myth, and typically the most ancient things 
in religion. But while the central ritual was immemorial, it may 
be taken for granted that the secret drama and hymns were 
innovated upon from time to time. And this frequent or customary 
change, proceeding from spontaneous devotional or artistic feeling, 
would seem to have been attempted in some degree, and even in an 
artistic spirit, 1 by the first Christians, till the religious principle and 
the church system of centralization petrified everything into fixed 
ritual. And only when we know better than we do at present the 
details of the process by which they built up alike their liturgy and 
their legends, their mysteries and their festivals, from the medley of 
religious systems around them, can we possibly be entitled to say 
that they did not take something from the ancient drama and ritual 
of India, to which so many Western eyes were then turned. 

Finally, we must remember that in all probability the ancient 
race of travelling Pagan mummers survived obscurely all through the 
Dark Ages, as did so much genuine Paganism. 2 From the first the 
Church had opposed the secular theatre, adding a Hebraic hostility 
to that which had always been felt by serious men in Rome, where 
the actor had all along been treated as outside citizenship. 3 The 
theatre on holy days drew the people away from the church ; 4 and 
the actors even dared to travesty the tales told of the saints and 
martyrs. 5 It was only after many attempts at ecclesiastical repres- 
sion that the Church in the fifth century, reverting to her own 
initial practice, resorted to religious drama as aforesaid ; and this 
was a time when the theatre was declining on all hands through 
economic distress. 6 While the ancient theatre subsisted, it had 
traded freely on the erotic elements of the old mythology ; 7 and it is 
certain that the populace of Christian Constantinople in the days of 
Justinian was as gross as the Pagan world had ever been. When, 
however, the theatres disappeared after the sixth century, the 
wandering mummers were probably constrained to some measure 
of propriety ; and a handling of popular religious themes would be 
one of their natural expedients. Towards the end of the tenth 

1 Mosheim (1 Cent. pt. ii. ch. 4, § 6) decides that even in the first century the liturgical 
hymns "were sung not by the whole assembly, but by certain persons during the celebra- 
tion of the sacred supper and the feasts of charity." 

2 Cp. Warton, History of English Poetry, sect, xxxiv ; Symonds, Shake spectre's Pre- 
decessors, p. 95; Vernon Lee, Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy, pp. 233-4; Ulrici, 
as cited, p. 10; E. K. Chambers, The Medieval Stage, 1903, i, 23 sq. ; C. Hastings, The 
Theatre : Its Development, etc., Eng. tr. 1901, p. 95. 

3 Chambers, as cited, i, 8 sq. 

4 Id. p. 15. 5 Id. p. 10. 6 !d. p. 19. 7 u. p. i, 6. 


century, accordingly, we find the Eastern Church once more com- 
peting with them in quasi-religious romps, which are a foretaste of 
the medieval Feast of Fools, 1 and which, like that, point straight 
back to Pagan practice. 2 And when, in the " Tropes " which lead 
the way to the Miracle-plays and mystery-plays of the Eenaissance, 3 
we find the Church combining music with drama on more religious 
lines, it is by way of queries and responses which take us straight 
back to two of the oldest folk-plays of antiquity — the play of the 
child laid in the manger, and that of the Sacrificed-God resurrected 
from the rock-sepulchre. By that time the Church no longer knew 
— collectively, indeed, her children had never realized — that primitive 
drama was the very womb and genesis of the whole faith. 

§ 15. The Seven Myth. 

An examination of two other minor myth-motives of Christianity 
in connection with Krishnaism will perhaps be found not unin- 
structive. We have seen that the Catholic Church placed St. 
Christopher's day at the time when, in the Hindu legend, Vasudeva 
carries the new-born Krishna across a river. That is not the only 
detail of the kind. Just a fortnight before, on July 10, is fixed the 
Catholic commemoration day of the Septem Fratres Martyres, the 
seven martyred brothers. 

1. Here we are at once up to the eyes in universal mythology. 
On the very face of the Christian martyrology, these Seven Brother 
Martyrs are mythic : they are duplicated again and again in that 
martyrology itself. Thus we have the specially so-called Septem 
Fratres Martyres, who are sons of a martyr mother Felicitas, and 
whose martyrdom is placed in the reign of Antoninus Pius — a safe 
way off. But on the 18th day of the same month we have the 
martyred Saint Symphorosa and her seven martyred sons, whose 
date is put under Hadrian, a little earlier still. But yet earlier still 
we find included in the same martyrology the pre-Christian case of 
the seven Maccabee brothers 4 and their mother, fixed for August 1. 
And still the list mounts. On July .27 — we are always in or just 
out of July — is the holy day of the Septem Dormientes, our old 
friends the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, fabled to have been ' walled 
up in a cave in which they had hid themselves " in the year 250, in 
the persecution of Decius, and to have waked up — or to have been 
discovered, as the scrupulous Butler would prefer to put it — in 479. 5 

1 Hastings, as cited, pp. 96-7 ; Chambers, i, 328. 2 Chambers, i, 329. 

3 Hastings, p. 98 ; Chambers, ii, ch. 18. 4 2 Maccabees, vii. 

5 See their story in Gibbon, c. 33, end. This date should have been the end of the 
world, as to which there were even more guesses in the early than in the later Christian 


Nor is even this all. There are further the Seven Martyrs of 
Samosata, whose holy day is somewhat belated, December 9 ; and 
the seven Virgin Martyrs of Ancyra, who are placed under Diocletian, 
so as to help to cover the martyrological ground, and who in the 
Roman Catholic Calendar are commemorated on May 18, but in the 
Armenian Church on June 20. Doubtless the Seven Virgins, all 
ladies of about seventy years, have a different mythic origin from 
the seven brothers or sleepers, who in the four first cases are invari- 
ably youths or boys ; and the seven of Samosata (whose actual date 
of martyrdom was June 25) also divide off from the July group in 
respect that two of them, the leaders, are old, and that the remaining 
five in the story are represented as joining these two, who adored 
the crucifix seven times a day. 1 We are left with four sets of Seven 
Martyrs, three of them sets of brothers, whose mothers were 
martyred before or after them, they themselves suffering between 
July 10 and August 1. 

That the Seven Sleepers are of the same myth stock is clear. 
In the Musaeum Victorium of Rome is, or was, a plaster group of 
them, in which clubs lie beside two of them ; a knotty club near 
another ; axes near two others ; and a torch near the seventh. 
Now the general feature 2 of the other martyrdoms is the variety of 
the tortures imposed. Of the first seven, one is flogged to death 
with loaded whips, two with clubs, one thrown over a precipice, 
and three beheaded ; and of the sons of Symphorosa each one dies 
a distinct death. The seven Maccabees are not so much particu- 
larized ; but of the seven of Samosata, the first, who is old, is flogged 
with loaded whips like the eldest son of Felicitas ; and, though all 
are crucified, they are finally despatched in three different ways. 
Again, though the Sleepers are commonly conceived, naturally, in 
their final Rip Van Winkle aspect, in the plaster group they are 
beardless, and " in ancient martyrologies and other writings they 
are frequently called boys." In the Koran, again, 3 still youths, and 
still " testifying" in bad times, they sleep, with their eyes open, for 
309 years — a longer period than that of the Christian legend, which 
gives them a sleep of only some 227 years 4 — and they are guarded 
by a dog ; while the Deity " turned them to the right and to the 
left," and the sun when it arose passed on the right of their cave, 
and when it set passed them on the left; a sufficiently obvious 

times. If the chronology of Julius Africanus were accepted, 469 would be the year of the 
end of the world, on Tertullian's (Magian) view that it was to last 6,000 years. 

1 For these legends see Butler's or any other Lives of the Saints, under the dates given. 

2 Butler, ed. 1812, etc., vii, 359-60. 

3 Sura 18, " The Cave." Rodwell's trans. 1st ed. p. 212. 

4 In one version ; in others the time is under 200 years. 


indication of the solar division of the year. And the mythic dog, 
Mohammedans believe, is to go with the Seven to heaven. He is, of 
course, of the breed of the dogs who, in certain old Semitic mysteries, 
" were solemnly declared to be the brothers of the mystae "; and his 
connection with the Sleepers doubtless hinges on the ancient belief 
that he " has the use of his sight both by night and by day." 

Seven, as the reader need hardly be reminded, is a ' sacred 
number" 3 that constantly figures in Jewish, Vedic, and other ancient 
lore ; and there is reason to surmise here, as in so many other cases, 
a Christian connection with Mithraism. Among the admittedly 
Mithraic remains in the Catacombs is a fresco representing a banquet 
of seven persons, who are labelled as the Septem Pii Sacerdotes, the 
seven pious priests. 4 Now, the very Catholic authorities who admit 
the Mithraic character of the picture have put forward an exactly 
similar one as being Christian, stating that it is common, without a 
word of misgiving or explanation, beyond an uncalculating sugges- 
tion that it represents the meeting of Jesus with seven disciples 
(John xxi, 1-13) after his resurrection. " It is not stated," argue 
these exegetes, " that He Himself sat down and partook of the meal 
with them." 5 So we are to suppose that the Catacomb artist painted 
the seven fisher disciples, on the shore of the lake, sitting on a 
couch, banqueting at an elaborately laid table, in the presence of 
their Lord and Master, whose figure is left to the imagination. It 
is plain that the picture is either Mithraic pure and simple or an 
exact Christian imitation of a Mithraic ceremony ; and indeed it is 
very likely that the story in the fourth Gospel, which is evidently 
an addition, was one more fiction to explain a ritual usage. The 
picture could not have been painted for the story ; but the story 
might very well be framed to suit the rite, which existed before the 
painting. And here at least Mithraism had handed on to Christianity 
an institution of ancient India, for the seven priests figure repeatedly 
in the Eig Veda in connection with the worship of Agni. 6 But, 
again, the rite is probably a widespread one ; for in the Dionysiak 
myth the Child-God is torn by the Titans into seven pieces ; and 

1 Robertson Smith, Beligion of the Semites, p. 273. 

2 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 44. Cp. Diodorus Siculus, i,87. 

3 " An infinite number of beauties may be extracted from a careful contemplation of 
it." Philo Judceus, Bonn trans, iii, 265. 

4 Boma Sotteranea, as cited, Appendix B, vol. ii, p. 355. 

5 Plate xvii, vol. ii. and pp. 67-8. 

G Big Veda Sanhita, Wilson's trans, i, 101, 156; iii, 115, 120, etc. It may have been 
Mithraic example that led to the creation of seven epulones, rulers of the Roman sacrificial 
feasts, in place of the original three; as later to the institution of the seven Christian 
deacons. The Septemviri Eimlones appear often in inscriptions. There was, however, a 
traditional ceremonial banquet of Seven Wise Men at Corinth, the founding of which was 
attributed to Periander, about 600 B.C. Plutarch, Banquet of the Seven Wise Men, ii. 



there is reason to surmise that a Banquet of Seven gave rise to 
that story. 1 

We cannot here, of course, trace such a myth minutely to all its 
parallels; 2 and there is a risk of oversight in bracketing it with all 
the Sevens of general mythology. The Rev. Sir George Cox traces 
these generally to the seven stars of Ursa Major : — 

" The seven stars" [in Sanskrit, first rikshas, bears ; later rishis, shiners, 
sages] " became the abode of the Seven Poets or sages, who enter the ark 
with Menu (Minos) and reappear as the Seven Wise Men of Hellas, the 
Seven Children of Ehodos and Helios (Pind. 01. vii, 132), and the Seven 

Champions of Christendom." 3 " Epimenides while tending sheep, fell 

asleep one day in a cave, and did not awake until more than fifty years had 
passed away. But Epimenides was one of the Seven Sages, who reappear 
in the Seven Manes of Leinster [ref. to Fergusson, The Irish before the 
Conquest] and in the Seven Champions of Christendom ; and thus the idea 
of the Seven Sleepers was at once suggested." 4 

Sir George Cox, however, does not connect these groups with the 
sets of Seven Martyrs ; whereas Christian and Teutonic mythology 
alike entitle us to do so. In every case the point is that the Seven 
are to rise again, that being the doctrinal lesson in the story of the 
Maccabees as well as in those of the Christian Martyrs. In the 
Northern Sagas the Seven Sleepers are the sons of Mimer, " the 
ward of the middle-root of the world-tree"; they are "put to 
sleep" in "bad times" after their father's death; and they awake 
at the blast of the trumpet of Ragnarok. They are in fact the 
" seven seasons," the seven changes of the weather, the seven 
" economic months " of Northern lore ; and in Germany and Sweden 
the day of the Seven Sleepers is a popular test-day of the weather, 
as St. Swithin's day, July 15 — we are always in July — is for us. 5 
Now, whereas the names of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus — 
Maximian, Malchus, Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, Con- 
stantine — have no connection with a weather-myth, the very first 
name of the Septem Fratres Marty res is Januarius, and the list 
includes the names of Felix, Sylvanus, Vitalis, and Martialis, all of 
which have a seasonal suggestion. So, too, have the names alike 
of Felicitas, Fertility, and Symphorosa^ propitious, useful, profit- 
able. And the source of the legend is put beyond all doubt when 

1 See the bas-relief from the Dionysiak theatre, reproduced in Mythology and Monu- 
ments of Ancient Athens, by Miss Harrison and Mrs. Verrall, 1890, p. 283. Cp. that on p. 278. 

' 2 The myth gets into Danish history in the story of the seven young Danes of Jomsburg, 
who, being captured in Norway, undergo their deaths with unparalleled fortitude, having 
been trained to despise death and all suffering. Each "testifies" separately. Mallet's 
Intr. to Hist, of Denmark, lib. 4. 

3 Mythology of the Aryan Nations, p. 26. 4 Id. p. 225. 

5 Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology, pp. 488-494. 


we find that Temporum Felicitas is actually the inscription on 
ancient coins or medals representing that Eoman Goddess 1 and her 
children the seasons. On one side she herself is represented with 
three children, she bearing symbols, but they bearing none ; while 
on the other are four boys, who distinctly stand for the seasons in 
respect of the symbols they bear. 2 Now, the ancients had two 
conceptions on the subject — one of three Horse, who were " not 
seasons, properly speaking, for the winter was never a Hora," and 
who were often represented without attributes; 3 the other, the 
more definite notion of the quatuor anni tempora ; and the medal 
under notice simply presents both fancies. And the Christian 
myth-maker in his turn has simply combined them anew, adding 
the four to the three and making seven sons of Felicitas, accounting 
for the Temporum as he thought fit. Thus can myths be made. 
The symbols in the Museum at Eome, which are the motives of the 
various forms of martyrdom, are mere developments of those in the 
glyph of Felicitas and her children ; and the whips in particular are 
but the flails of the harvest time. 

It is not to be supposed, of course, that the myth could always 
keep the same cast ; and it may be that it is at bottom the same as 
that of the seven boy and girl victims of the Minotaur in the legend 
of Theseus ; but there is certainly a close kinship between the 
Teutonic and Christian forms under notice. In the view of Dr. 
Eydberg, the myth is originally Teutonic ; though he notes that 
" Gregorius says that he is the first who recorded in the Latin 
language" the miracle of the Seven Sleepers, "not before known to 
the Church of Western Europe. As his authority he quotes ' a 
certain Syrian,' who had interpreted the story for him. There was 
also need of a man from the Orient as an authority when a hitherto 
unknown miracle was to be presented — a miracle that had transpired 
(sic trans.) in a cave near Ephesus." It might be answered to this 
not only that, as Dr. Eydberg himself candidly notes, the sleeping 
Endymion was located in a cave in Latmos near Ephesus, but that 
the seven Pleiades of Greek mythology were rain-givers, and presided 
over navigation, just as he says the northern Seven Sleepers did. 
It is doubtless this idea that occurs in the legend of the Seven 
Virgins of Ancyra, whom the persecutor drowns in a lake, and 
whose holy day, May 18, is set just about the time the Pleiades 

1 Felicitas was separately deified. Augustine, Be Civ. Dei, iv, 18, 23; Suetonius, 
Tiberius, c. 5. 

2 See the reproduction by Spanheini, Obs. in Callimachi Hymn, in Cererem, ed. Ernesti, 
1761, ii, 815-16. 

3 K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, p. 530. 


rise. 1 Furthermore, the Graeco- Syrians had their doctrine of the 
seven zones or climates into which the earth was divided, 2 just as 
the northerns had their seven seasons ; the zones being doubtless 
correlative with the "seven bonds of heaven and earth" which in 
the ancient Babylonian system were developed from the seven 
planets and their representative spirits. 3 But Gregory's derivation 
of the Christian myth from the East, where also are located the 
Septem Fratres Martyres, brings us back to our bearings as regards 
the present inquiry. 

2. The occurrence of all these dates of " sevens " in July, or just 
after July, the seventh month, is a remarkable coincidence ; and it 
is impossible to avoid the surmise that they have a connection with 
the month's ordinal number. But further surmises are suggested 
by the fact that in the Krishna legends there is a variation, and an 
evident confusion, as to the numerical place of the God in the list 
of his mother's children, of whom he would appear in some versions 
to have been the seventh, while commonly he is the eighth. 4 
Devakf's eight children are said to have been seven sons and a 
daughter ; but only the six sons are said to have been killed by 
Kansa ; while in the Bhagavat Purana her seventh child is Bala 
Rama, and, he being "transferred" to the womb of Rohini, her 
seventh pregnancy is given out as ending in miscarriage. It is 
hardly possible to doubt that there has been a manipulation of an 
earlier myth-form ; and the suspicion is strengthened by the confused 
fashion in which it is told that after the birth of the divine child 
the parents' eyes were closed by Vishnu, so that " they again thought 
that a child was born unto them" — a needless and unintelligible 
detail. 5 The myth, besides, is certainly pre-Krishnaite. " In the 
Veda, the sun, in the form of Martanda, is the eighth son born of 
Aditi ; and his mother casts him off, just as Devaki, who is at times 
represented as an incarnation of Aditi, removes Krishna." 6 In 
other mythologies as in the Hindu the number of the supernatural 

1 The lake itself, in the Christian legend, is the scene of a local water-worship in con- 
nection with Pagan Goddesses. Now, the Semites attached a special sanctity to groups of 
Seven Wells ; and the Arabic name given to (presumably) one such group signifies the 
Pleiades. See Smith's BeKgion of the Semites, pp. 153, «., 165, 168. 

2 Bardesan, Fragments, Eng. tr. Ante-Nicene Lib. vol. xxii, b, p. 107. 

3 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 110. There were seven bad spirits as well as seven good — 
the number was obligatory. Id. pp. 82, 102, 105, 283. Cp. Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, 
Eng. tr. p. 25. 

4 Compare M. Barth's account with that of Mam-ice (History of Hindostan, ii, 330), who 
follows the Bhagavat Purana, but cites Balde, who made Krishna the seventh son. 

5 It is made partly intelligible in the Prem Sagar (" Ocean of Love"), a Hindu version 
at second hand of the tenth book of the Bhagavat Purana. The idea there is that the 
parents are made to forget the preliminary revelation of the divinity. Cp. Cox, p. 368. 

6 Barth, Religions of India, p. 173. See Wilson's Rig Veda Sanhita, vi, 199. Aditi 
" bore Martanda for the birth and death of human beings." 


family varies between seven and eight. " To Kronos [II or El] were 

borne by Astarte seven daughters and again to him were borne 

by Rhea seven sons, the youngest of whom was consecrated from his 
birth"; 1 but again the divine Eshmun (Asklepios) was the eighth 
son of Sydyk. 2 The solution is dubious. 3 It is possible that a myth 
of the birth of seven inferior or ill-fated children, followed by that 
of one who attains supreme Godhood, may be a primitive cosmogonic 
explanation of the relation of the " seven planets " to the deity, 
which is certainly the basis of the familiar myth of the " Seven 
Spirits " who figure so much in the Mazdean system and in the 
Christian Apocalypse. Mithra, the chief of the seven Amshaspands 
or planetary spirits of the Persian system, who are clearly akin to 
the " Adityas " of the Vedas, 4 rose in his solar character to virtual 
supremacy ; and it is noteworthy that throughout the Avesta the 
heavenly bodies always appear in the order : Planets, Moon, and 
Sun, the Sun coming last. 5 In this light, the conception of stars 
and moon as ghosts or dead divinities in comparison with the sun 
seems not unlikely. On the other hand, on Dr. Frazer's view of 
the primitive universality of the worship of a God of Vegetation, 
whose cult survived in such as those of Dionysos, Osiris, and 
Adonis, there may have been an association of a myth of the seasons 
with that of the Life-God, who finally dominates everything. And 
as there appears to have been a legend of seven slain sons of Devaki, . 
these seven sons of the "celestial man" 7 may be duplicates of the 
seven sleeping sons of the northern Mimer, whom we have seen 
identified with " the seven seasons." The Christian legends have 
shown us how the sleepers (always young) could be transformed 
into martyrs. It is a curious coincidence, again, that in one version 
of the myth of the twelve Hebrew patriarchs 8 the undesired Leah 
bears to the solar Jacob seven children, six sons and a daughter, 
before the desired Rachel bears the favourite, the solar Joseph ; 
while in the dual legend of Rama and Krishna the younger brother 
becomes the greater, as happens in so many Biblical cases of pairs 

1 Sanchoniatbon in Eusebius, Prcep. Evang., cited in Cory's Ancient Fragments, 
pp. 13-14. 

2 Id. p. 19. 

3 Apollo, reputed born on tbe seventb day of the month, was probably first known as 
tseventh-day-born, £f38o/jLayei>7]s. Scholiasts on iEsch. Seven against Thebes, 800, where 
the epithet is e(38o/j.ayeT7)s. Cp. Plutarch, Symposium, viii. 

4 Tiele, Outlines, p. 169. 

5 Goldziher, Hebrew Mythology, p. 61. 

6 M. Pavie, in his translation (Krishna et sa Doctrine, 1852) of Lalatch's Hindi 
•version of the tenth book of the Bhagavat Purana, heads the first chapter, " King Kansa 
kills the first seven children of his sister Devaki," though the text is not explicit to that 

7 Barth, as cited, p. 172. e Gen. xxx, 20-24. 


of brothers — Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Reuben and 
Joseph, Pharez and Zarah, Manasseh and Ephraim. 1 

The suspicion of manipulation is further strengthened by the 
fact that, while the Birth Festival falls in July, the date of the birth 
in late texts appears to be August. It could be wished that Weber 
had brought his scholarly knowledge to bear on the problem of the 
meaning of these dates rather than on the impracticable thesis he 
has adopted from his supernaturalist predecessors. Sir William 
Jones gave a clue 2 in noting the fact that in the Brahman almanacs 
there are two ways of dating Krishna's birthday. One puts it 
" when the moon is in Rohini, on the eighth of any dark fortnight ; 
the other when the sun is in Sinha." It is a conflict of myths. 

As to the " seven seasons " notion in old Aryan mythology, it 
is impossible to speak. The number in Hindu lore as preserved 
is six ; 3 and though these might be connected with the six slain 
children of Devaki, they do not square with the eight births of 
Aditi. But for this last precedent, it might be suspected that 
Krishna had been made the eighth child of the Divine Lady because 
he was the eighth incarnation of Vishnu ; but the Aditi myth is a 
strong reminder that the story of the eight children may be older 
than the scheme of the Avatars, the genesis of which is so difficult 
to trace. 4 In Rhodes, Poseidon was held to have six sons and one 
daughter by Halia ; while Helios had seven sons and one daughter 
by Rhode. 5 And here we are reminded that the number eight 
figures in the Vedas as well as seven, there being indeed eight 
"planets " in the Indian system. 6 Yet again, in Egyptian mytho- 
logy there are "eight personified cosmic powers" "from whom the 
city of Thut, Hermopolis, derived its Egyptian name," and who are 
11 always united with Thut, but nevertheless to be distinguished 
from his seven assistants." 7 Again, it has been pointed out that 
the Pythian cycle of eight years was one of ninety-nine lunar 
months, " at the end of which the revolutions of the sun and moon 
again nearly coincided. 8 Finally, it is probable that the old per- 
plexity as to Hesperus and Phosphorus — the question whether it 
was the same planet, Venus, that was seen now at dawn and now 

1 Compare the ascendancy of Zeus over his elder brethren. Callimachus. Hymn to 
Zeus, 58-59. In Hesiod {Theogony, 453-478) Zeus is the sixth and youngest child; but in 
the Iliad (xv, 182, 204 ; cp. iv, 60) he is the eldest born. 

2 Asiatic Researches, iii,289. 

3 Jones, in Asiatic Researches, iii, 258 ; Patterson, id. viii, 66. 

4 For an ingenious if inconclusive attempt to find an astrological solution of the 
problem, see Salverte's Essai sur les Noms, 1824, vol. ii, Note C. Salverte has followed 
some account which makes Krishna the seventh child of Devaki. 

5 Diodorus Siculus, v, 55, 56. 6 Barth, as cited, p. 261, n. 

7 Tiele, Outlines, p. 49. Cp. Herodotus, ii, 43, 46, 145, 156. 

8 K. O. Muller, Dorians, Eng. tr. i, 281. Cp. pp. 263, 270. 


at sunset : a problem which was said to have been settled by 
Pythagoras 1 — may underlie the alternations of a seven and an eight 
myth. It would seem as if an eight myth and a seven myth, both 
of irretrievable antiquity, had been entangled 2 too early to permit 
of any certainty as to their respective origins. 

On that view, of course, the possibility remains that a week- 
myth may after all be bound up with the legend of Krishna and the 
six slain children. The names of the days of the week, ancient and 
modern, remind us that the " seven planets " — that is, the five 
planets anciently known, and the sun and moon — formed the basis 
of the seven-day division of time, in which the sun has always the 
place of honour. 3 

Now, it is a suggestive though imperfect coincidence that among 
the ancient Semites, who consecrated the seventh day {i.e., Saturday) 
to their supreme and sinister deity Saturn, the planet most distant 
from the sun, the priests on that day, clothed in black, ministered to 
the God in his black six-sided temple 4 — he having made the world in 
six days, the perfect number. This deity, like the black Krishna, 
bears signs of transformation from bad to good, from inferior to 
superior, since in ancient Italy he was both a good and a malevolent 
deity. 5 Of course Ovid's etymology is untenable, but it is none the 

1 Cicero, Be nat. deor. ii, 2. It was really settled in pre-Sernitic Babylonia long 
before his time. Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 233,258. 

2 Compare Macrobius, In Somn. Scip. i, 6. Colebrooke (Asiatic Researches, viii, 82-3) 
notes that "the eight Sactis, or enemies of as many deities, are also called Matris or 

mothers However, some authorities reduce the number to seven." So there are two 

accounts of the number of children borne by Megara to Herakles, Pherecydes making 
them seven, and Pindar (lath, iii, 81, 116) eight. (Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums, iii, 98.) 
Apollodoros in one place (ii, 7, 8) makes the sons four ; in another (ii, 4, 11) three. It 
may very well be that this ancient perplexity is the origin of the odd phrase in Eccle- 
siastes (xi, 2): "Give a portion to Seven, and also to Eight"— a formula which the com- 
mentators seem to regard as having no special meaning. The two numbers appear again 
in Micah, v, 5. See Mr. Gerald Massey's Natural Genesis, ii, 80, 104-5, for a surprising 
number of other instances, one from the Fiji Islands! See also the same work, ii, 2, as 
to the number of the Pleiads. 

3 On this point, in connection with India, see Von Bohlen, Das Alte Indien, 1830, ii, 
245 ff . The origin of the week appears still to be disputed. Le Clerc long ago urged the 
planetary basis against Grotius, who accepted the Judaic (On the Truth of the Chr.Itel. 
i, 16) ; but Professor Whitney (Life and Groivth of Language, p. 81) writes that the 
planetary day-names would have remained to Europe, as to India, a mere astrologers' 
fancy, but for Christianity and its inheritance of the Jewish seven-day period as a leading 
measure of time"— a somewhat extreme statement. True, the Greeks and Romans had not 
the week of seven named days, though the Egyptians had it ; but the Greeks early had a 
sacred seventh day. See below, p. 232. The Day of the Sun or Lord's Day was certainly 
a popular institution under Paganism. On the general problem cp. Baden Powell, Chris- 
tianity without Judaism, 1857, pp. 90-93, note; Kuenen, Religion of Israel, Eng. tr. i, 264 ; 
Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 113; Indian Antiquary, March, 1874 (iii, 90) ; Philostratus, 
Life of Apollonius of Tyana, iii, 41, end; Max Muller, On False Analogies in Comparative 
Theology, Contemporary Review, 1870. 

4 Gesenius, Commentar ilber d. Jesaia, 2ter Theil, Beilage, 2, p. 344, citing Nordberg, 
Lex. p. 76 ff . (Donaldson, Theatre of the Greeks, 7th ed. p. 15.) 

5 Cp. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, i, 38; Virgil, Eel. iv, 6 ; Georg. i, 336, ii, 538; Horace, 
2 Carm. xvii, 23; Augustine, Be Civ. Bei, vii, 13; Juvenal, vi, 569; Macrobius, In Somn. 
Scip. i, 19. Compare the words "saturnine," signifying gloomy, and " saturnian " as signi- 
fying the golden age. See further Lucan, i, 652, on which a curious question arises. Lucan 
speaks of Saturn as a baleful star with " black fires." Bentley proposed to read Caprx- 
corni for Batumi, giving ingenious but doubtful reasons, Mythological confusion was 
doubtless caused by the meteorological significance of the star, as apart from the deity. 


less significant that for him Saturn, the Deus Latins, or God of 
Latium, is the Deus Latens, or "hiding God," 1 considering that 
Saturn was commonly opposed to Jupiter, the Deus Latiaris, equally 
God of Latium, the illustrious king of the race. 2 It may be that, as 
in so many other myths, the name helped the theory as to Saturn's 
" hidden " character ; but in any case the theory was persistent ; and 
Herodian, writing in the third century, tells that the Latins kept the 
festival of the Saturnalia in December " to commemorate the hidden 
God," 3 just before the feast of the New Year in honour of Janus, 
whose image had two faces, because in him was the end of the old 
and the beginning of the new year. Thus he was celebrated at the 
time of the greatest cold, the festival lasting for seven days, from 
December 17 ; but the time was one of universal goodwill, calling 
up thoughts of the golden age past, and to come. 4 And not the least 
curious parallel between this and the Krishnaite festival and our own 
Christmas festival is the old custom of making, at the time of the 
Saturnalia, little images, which were given as presents, especially to 
children. 5 

This is away from the week-myth. To return to that : we find 
that in seven-gated Thebes, Apollo the Sun-God is lord of the seventh 
gate because lord of the number seven, and born on the seventh day 
of the month ; 7 and though in the Hellenic legend of the seven chiefs 
who die in the attack on the seven-gated city the basal myth is much 
sophisticated, it can hardly be doubted that there is a dualist nature- 
myth behind the detail of the mutual slaughter of the two opposed 
brothers at the gate of Apollo. More obvious is the conception as we 
have it plausibly explained by Sir George Cox, followed by Dr. Tylor, 
in the case of Grimm's story of the wolf and the seven little goats. 
The wolf is the darkness (Kansa was black) who tries to swallow the 

who was by many reckoned the chief of the Gods, and identified with the sky and the sun 
(Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 7, 10, 22). In the Mithraic mysteries Saturn had the " first " 
gate, the "leaden." Origen, Against Celsus, vi, 22. 

1 Fasti, i, 238. 

2 Preller, Bum. Myth, p. 85. 

3 Bk. i, c. 16. Cp. Tacitus, Hist, v, 4 ; and Preller, p. 413. It is to be noted, too, that 
Kronos (= Saturn) was represented in art with his head veiled (K. O. Miiller, Ancient Art, 
as cited, p. 520). 

4 Preller, p. 414; Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 10. 

5 Preller, last cit.: Macrobius, i, 11. 

6 ^Eschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 801. Each gate has its God, and the virgin Athene 
presides over all. In the Mithraic mysteries, Mithra, the Sun-God, was lord of the seventh 
gate, the gates being named from the planets, moon, and sun. Origen, as last cited. The 
same principle held in Babylon. In ancient Scandinavia, finally, if we can trust the 
Grimnismal, Balder dwells in the seventh celestial house. Bergmann, Le Message de 
Skirnir et les clits de Grimnir, pp. 228, 249, 269. Cp. Donaldson, Theatre of the Greeks, 
7th ed. p. 14. 

7 Scholiast on .ZEsch.; Miiller, Dorians, Eng. tr. i, 348 and refs. In four months, two in 
each half of the year, the seventh day was sacred to Apollo. Miiller, as cited, p. 350. Cp. 
p. 270. See also Hesiod, Works and Days, 770; Diogenes Laertius, Life of Plato; and 
Herodotus (vi, 57), who makes the seventh day of every month as well as the day of each 
new moon sacred to Apollo in Sparta. 


seven days of the week, and does swallow six, while the seventh hides. 
In the Teutonic story the six days come out again, which they do not 
in the Hindu ; but the myth may be the same at bottom. In any 
case, here we have six or seven slain " children," whose fate makes 
part of the story of Krishna ; and these compare strikingly with the 
Christian sets of Seven Martyrs, who are all either " children " of a 
mother who dies with them, or simply boys, as in the case of the 
Sleepers of Ephesus ; and who are so curiously associated with the 
same month. I am not arguing that the Christian myth must have 
filtered in the early centuries of our era from India : I have no 
information as to whether the Hindu ritual includes any allusion to 
Krishna's martyred brothers. But at the very least the mythological 
basis of all the stories should be plain enough to help to disabuse all 
candid minds of the notion that Krishnaism drew its myths from 
Christianity. Here, again, the myth is embedded in the Hindu 
story, while it only fortuitously appears in Christian mythology. 

3. There is one other possible key to this part of the Krishna 
myth, which should not be overlooked. In old Hebrew usage the 
seventh month was also known as the first month, owing to a change 
which had been made in the reckoning. Wellhausen writes : — 

"The ecclesiastical festival of new year in the priestly Code is also 
autumnal. The yom teruah (Lev. xxiii, 24, 25 ; Num. xxix, 1 seq.) falls 
on the first new moon of autumn ; and it follows from a tradition confirmed 
by Lev. xxv, 9, 10, that this day was celebrated as new year. But it is 
always spoken of as the first of the seventh month. That is to say, the civil 
new year has been separated from the ecclesiastical and been transferred to 
spring ; the ecclesiastical can only be regarded as a relic surviving from an 

earlier period It appears to have first begun to give way under the 

influence of the Babylonians, who observed the spring era." [Note. "In 
Exod. xii, 2 this change of era is formally commanded by Moses : ' This 
month (the passover month) shall be the beginning of months unto you ; it 
shall be to you the first of the months of the year.' According to George 
Smith, the Assyrian year commenced at the vernal equinox ; the Assyrian 
use depends on the Babylonian. {Assyrian Eponym Canon, p. 19)."] 2 

In Greece, too, the solar year began at the summer solstice, 
while the lunar year began at the new moon succeeding it." Given 
such a usage in India, Krishna relates to the New Year even as the 
Western Sun- Gods whose birthdays were placed at the winter 
solstice. There seems reason to suppose that a change of calendar 
similar to that in the Hebrew reckoning took place earlier in Egypt. 

1 Cox, p. 177, note. Cp. Tylor, Primitive Culture, i, 302-8. 

2 Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel, Eng. fcr. pp. 103-109. 

3 Falconer's Miscellaneous Tracts, etc. .' 1793, p. 1. 


"The beginning of the year, or the first of Thoth," says Sir J. 
Gardner Wilkinson, " was perhaps originally at a very different 
season." 1 But during the Sothic period, which subsisted from 1322 
B.C. onwards, the usage would seem to have been substantially the 
same as it was in Caesar's time, when the first of Thoth, or new year, 
fell on 29th August. 2 We have to remember, too, that in Krishnaism 
itself there are different dates for the Birthday Festival, the Varaha 
Purana entirely departing from the accepted view. In that Purana 
the Krishna Birth-Festival appears to be "only one of a whole 
series, amounting to twelve, which relate themselves to the ten — or 
rather eleven ! — avatars of Vishnu as Fish, Tortoise, Boar, Man- 
Lion, Dwarf, 3 Bhargava {i.e., Parasu Rama), Rama Krishna, Buddha, 
Kalkin, and Padmanabha (sic)."* On which Weber justly observes 
that the festival calendars of other peoples betray similar discre- 
pancies. A case in point is that of Horus, who had more birthdays 
than one. 5 But enough, perhaps more than enough, of a mytho- 
logical problem which on any view is subsidiary to our main inquiry. 

§ 16. The Descent into Hell. 

Finally, a much more important myth-parallel than the last — 
though I do not even here contend for more than the possibility of 
direct Christian borrowing — is that between the story of Krishna's 
" descent into hell " and the Christian dogma and legend of the same 
purport. In this last case, as in others, Weber would doubtless 
argue that India borrowed from Alexandria. The known historical 
fact is that the dogma of the " descent into hell " made its first 
formal appearance in the Christian Church in the formulary of the 
church of Aquileia late in the fourth century, 6 having before that 
time had great popular vogue, as may be inferred from the non- 
canonical Gospel of Nicodemus, which gives the legend at much 
length. Only in the sixth century 7 did it begin to be formally 
affirmed throughout the Church, Augustine having accepted it with- 
out exactly knowing what to make of it. 8 Here clearly was one 
more assimilation of a Pagan doctrine; 9 for the Pagan vogue of the 

1 Ancient Egyptians, abridged ed. ii, 254. Cp. Bible Folk-Lore, 1884, p. 79, and the 
Classical Bevieiv, April, 1900, p. 146. 

2 Wilkinson, as cited, p. 252. 

8 It is a small matter, but it may be as well to guard the English reader against an error 
which occurs in the Rev. Mr. Wood's translation of M. Earth's admirable book on The 
Religions of India. On p. 170 there is an allusion to the Avatara of " the Brahman Nain.'*' 
This should be " the Brahman Dwarf " or " the Dwarf Bahmun." " Nain " is the French for 
dwarf, which the translator had misconceived; and "Bahmun," in some versions, was the 
dwarf's name. It is only fair to say that Mr. Wood has done his work in general very well. 

4 Weber, pp. 260-1. 5 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 52. 

6 Nicolas, Le Symbole des Apotres, 1867, pp. 221, 364. 
I Id. pp. 217-8. » Id. p. 223. 

9 On this compare Dr. Gardiner, Exploratio Evangelica, 1899, ch. xxi. 


myth of a God who descended into the underworld was unquestion- 
ably very great. Osiris was peculiarly the judge of the dead: 1 and 
he goes to and comes from the Shades; 2 Herakles went to Hades 
before he went to heaven, his last labour being to carry away 
Cerberus, the three-headed dog ; and then it was that he took away 
with him Theseus and Peirithous. Dionysos descends to Hades to 
bring back his mother Semele from the dead, and is so represented 
in art. 3 Hermes, the Psychopompos, is not only the leader of souls 
to the Shades, 4 but the guide of those who, like Herakles, return; 5 
he being the " appointed messenger (angel) to Hades." 6 

In the myth of Venus and Adonis, the slain Sun-God or Vegeta- 
tion-God passes six months of the year in the upper and six in the 
under world, as does the Sun itself; 7 Orpheus goes to harp Eurydice 
out of Hades ; and among the Thracian Getae, who early developed 
the belief in a happy immortality, the man-God Zamolxis, otherwise 
Gebeleizis, who had introduced that doctrine, disappeared for three 
years in a subterraneous habitation he had made for himself, and on 

1 Herodotus, ii, 123. Compare any account of the Egyptian system. 

2 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 19. Professor Tiele, indeed, states that "Osiris, according 
to the old monuments, comes back to earth no more" (Hist, of the Egypt. Bel. Eng. tr. 
p. 43) ; but Plutarch's words are explicit as to his return to visit Horus. In any case, the 
real point is, of course, that the God does not die ; and his residence in the other world as 
Judge of the Dead in the Egyptian system is quite a different thing from residence in the 
Hades of the Greeks. 

3 Pausanias, ii, 31, 37; Apollodoros, iii, 5, 3; Pindar, Olymv- ii. 46-52; Pyth. xi, 2; 
K. O. Muller, Ancient Art, pp. 492, 495. 

4 Odyssey, xxiv, 1-10. 5 Id. xi, 626. 

6 Horn. Hymn, 572. Long ago, according to the indignant Mosheim (note on Cudworth, 
Harrison's trans, iii, 298), one Peter a Sarn "dared to compare our blessed Saviour to 
Mercury, and to advance this as one of the principal arguments by which he attempts to 
bear out the comparison, that Mercury is said by the poets to discharge the twofold 
function of dismissing souls to Tartarus and evoking them from thence." Mosheim's own 
conviction was that "Beyond all doubt a man of that name" [i.e. Mercurius, not Hermes] 
" had lived in ancient Greece and had acquired for himself a high reputation by swiftness 
of foot, eloquence, and other virtues and vices ; and I have scarcely a doubt that he held 
the office of public runner and messenger to Jupiter, an ancient king of Thessaly." Such 
was the light of orthodoxy on human history one hundred and fifty years ago. It is note- 
worthy that Agni, the Child-God, messenger of the Gods, mediator, and "wise one" (the 
Logos) of the Vedas, was a leader of souls to the Shades (with Pushan, a form of the sun), 
just as was Hermes (Barth, p. 23; Tiele, Outlines, p. 114). Hermes himself is supposed to 
be a development of Hermeias, perhaps the Vedic dog Sarameya, who was once possibly 
"the child of the dawn," and whose name was given to the two dogs of the Indian Hades 
(Max Muller, Nat. Belig. pp. 453, 483; Tiele, p. 211). This and other identifications of 
Greek and Indian mythological names have been challenged, along with the whole theory 
of the derivation of the Aryan races from India. See Mr. Lang's Myth, Bitual, and 
Beligion, i, 23, citing Mannhardt ; but cp. the remarks above, p. 18. The old race theory 
may now be said to be exploded (see Dr. Isaac -Taylor's work The Origin of the Aryans, 
which gives the results of scholarship on the subject) ; but the question of the relations 
between Indian and other myths remains to be worked out on the new lines. 

7 Dr. Frazer (Golden Bough, 1st ed. i, 282) will not allow that this myth bas any solar 
significance ; asking how the sun in the south can be said to be dead for half or a third of 
the year. But he is satisfied to say that "vegetation, especially the corn, lies buried in 
the earth half the year, and reappears above ground the other half," which is surely not 
accurate. No doubt the Proserpina myth had such a purport ; but the explanation given 
by Macrobius (Sat. i, 21) of the Adonis myth is that the sun, passing through the twelve 
signs of the zodiac, spends six months in the " superior " and six in the " inferior" signs, 
which last called are the realm of Proserpina, while the others belong to the realm of 
Venus. For the rest, the fatal boar was held to typify winter, though that part of the 
myth is certainly not congruous with the rest. But concerning the predominantly solar 
Apollo it was told that he was present in Delos from the sacred month (January-February) 
to Hekatombaion (June-July) and absent in Lykia from Metageitnion (July-August) to 
Lenaion (=Gamelion: December-January). Here is an apparently solar precedent for 
the Adonisian usage. 


his unexpected return the Thracians believed his teaching. So tells 
the incomparable Herodotus, 1 who " neither disbelieved nor entirely 
believed " the story in this evidently Evemerized form. But the 
doctrine is universal, being obviously part of the myth of the death 
and resurrection not only of the Vegetation-God but of the Sun-God, 
either in the form of the equinoctial mystery in which he is three 
days between death and life, or in the general sense that he goes to 
the lower regions for his winter death before he comes to his strength 
again. In a crude form, we find it in the obviously primitive Poly- 
nesian myth of Maui. 2 It is bound up with the religion of Mithra, 
in which, as we gather from later myth-versions, the God originally 
passed into the " place of torment " at the autumn equinox. 3 It is 
even probable that the myth of Apollo's bondage to Admetos (a 
name of the God of the underworld) originally implied his descent 
to the infernal regions; 4 a myth rightly connected by Ottfried 
Muller with the solitary story of Apollo's death. The same concep- 
tion is fully developed in the Northern myth of the Sun-God Balder, 
who, wounded in a great battle, in which some of his kindred oppose 
him, or otherwise by the shaft of magic mistletoe, goes to the under- 
world of Hel, where he grows strong again by drinking sacred mead, 
and whence he is to return at the Kagnarok, or Twilight of the Gods, 
when Gods and men are alike to be regenerated. 5 Common to all 
races, it appears poetically in our legend of Arthur, the gold-clothed 
solar child, born as was Herakles of a dissembling father, and like 
Cyrus secretly reared, who after being stricken in a great battle in 
the West, in which the British kindred slay each other as do the 
Yadavas of the Krishna lore, goes to the island valley of Avilion to 
heal him of his grievous wound, and to return. In pre-Christian 
Greece, from a very distant period, such a myth was certainly 
current — witness the visit of the solar Ulysses to the Shades in the 
Odyssey — and it was doubtless bound up with the doctrine of immor- 
tality conveyed in the Mysteries. 6 

As the latter belief gained ground, the myth of descent and 
return, always prominent in the fable of Proserpine, would become 

1 B. iv, 93-96. 2 Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific. 

3 Wait, as cited, p. 194. 

4 See K. O. Muller, Dorians, Eng. tr. i, 339-340; Introduction to Mythology, Eng. fee. 
pp. 239-246. 

See the minute and scholarly examination of this myth in Dr. Rydberg's Teutonic 
Mythology, pp. 249-264, 492, 530-8, 595, 653, 655, etc.; and the account given above, pp. 128- 
135, of recent discussions. The second part of Dr. Rydberg's great work, which contains 
a fuller study of the Balder myth, is unfortunately not translated into English. 

6 K. O. Muller, Hist, of Lit. of Anc. Greece, Lewis's tr. 1847, p. 231. Cp. Professor 
Nettleship, Essays in Latin Literature, pp. 105, 136-140: Dr. Hatch, Influence of Greek 
Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, 1890, Lect. ix ; and Mosheim's extracts in 
note on Cudworth, iii, 296. 


more prominent ; and in the " Orphic " period this fascinating motive 
was fully established in religious literature. In one " Orphic " poem, 
the Minyas, which elaborately described the lower regions, we have 
the exact title-formula of the later Christian doctrine, V «s AiSov 
Kara/Wts, "the Descent into Hades." 1 But there is reason to 
believe that the " Orphic " system was a result of the influence of 
Asiatic doctrine; 2 and indeed, of all mythic analogues to the 
Christian myth of the Descent into Hell, I can remember none more 
exact than the story of the similar descent of Krishna. He too, 
like Agni and Hermes, is a" conveyer of the souls of the dead," 
and as such is invoked at funerals by the name of Heri, the cry 
being "Heri-bol!" 3 Singularly enough, he connects with Hermes 
further in that he is identified with " Budha," the name given by 
the Hindus to the planet Mercury; 4 but on the Christian side he 
exhibits a number of other parallels which do not occur in the 
Hermes myth as we have it. Take the account of Moor : — 

"It is related in the Padma Purana, and in the Bhagavat, that the wife 
of Kasya, the Guru or spiritual preceptor to Krishna, complained to the 
incarnate deity that the ocean had swallowed up her children on the coast 
of Gurjura or Gujerat, and she supplicated Krishna for their restoration. 
Arriving at the ocean, Varuna, its regent, assured Krishna that not he but 
the sea-monster Sankesura had stolen the children. Krishna sought and 
after a violent conflict slew the demon, and tore him from his shell, named 
Panchajanya, which he bore away in memorial of his victory, and afterwards 
used in battle by way of a trumpet. Not finding the children in the 
dominions of Varuna, he descended to the infernal city, Yamapura, and, 
sounding his tremendous shell, struck such terror into Yama that he ran 
forth to make his prostrations, and restored the children of Kasya, with 
whom he returned to their rejoicing mother. 

" Sonnerat notices two basso-relievos, placed at the entrance of the choir 
of Bordeaux Cathedral : one represents the ascension of our Saviour to 
heaven on an eagle ; the other his descent, where he is stopped by Cerberus 
at the gates of hell, and Pluto is seen at a distance armed with a trident. 

" In Hindu pictures Vishnu, who is identified with Krishna, is often seen 

mounted on the eagle Garuda And were a Hindu artist to handle the 

subject of Krishna's descent to hell, which I never saw, he would most 
likely introduce Cerbura, the infernal three-headed dog 5 of their legends, 

1 K. O. Mttller, as last cited, p. 233. Cp. Pausanias, ix, 31, as to the poems attributed to 

2 Compare Mr. Lang's Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. i, 291-3, and Grote and 
Lobeck as cited by him. 

3 Balfour's Indian Ciiclopcedia, art. Nemi. 

4 Max Miiller, art. on "False Analogies" in Introduction to tlie Science of Religion, 
1st ed. p. 308. 

5 "Yama, the regent of hell, has two dogs, according to the Puranas, one of them 
named Cerbura and Sabula, or varied; the other Syama, or black ; the first of whom is 
also called Trisiras, or with three heads, and has the additional epithets of Calmasha, 
Chitra, and Cirmira, all signifying stained or spotted. In Pliny the words Cimmerium and 
Cerberium seem used as synonymous; but, however that may be, the Cerbura of the 
Hindus is indubitably the Cerberus of the Greeks " ( Wilf ord, in Asiatic Researches, iii, 408). 
There seems some doubt as to the antiquity of the "three heads" in Indian mythology : 


and Yama their Pluto, with the trisula, or trident : a further presumption 
of early intercommunication between the pagans of the eastern and western 
hemispheres." 1 

For obvious reasons, the whole of this passage is suppressed in 
the Rev. W. O. Simpson's 1864 edition of Moor's work. But the 
parallel goes even further than Moor represents ; for the descent of 
Jesus into hell, curiously enough, was anciently figured as involving 
a forcing open of the jaws of a huge serpent or dragon. 2 Thus, 
whether or not the Christian adaptation was made directly from 
Indian communications, it carried on a myth which, appearing in 
some guise in all faiths, figured in ancient India in a form more 
closely parallel with the Christian than any other now extant. 
The appropriation would seem to have been made confusedly, from 
different sources. Christ in one view went to Hades in his capacity 
of avenger 3 — an idea evidently derived from the Osirian system, 
which, however, closely approaches the Indian in the story of Osiris 
descending to the Shades on the prayer of Queen Garmathone and 
restoring her son to life. 4 In another view, which prevails in the 
main legend as given in the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Christ descends 
to the Shades, where Satan and Death are one, on a mission of 
liberation, taking all the " saints " of previous history with him to 
heaven, but further restoring to earth for three days the two sons 
of the blessed high-priest Simeon, who had taken the babe Jesus in 
his arms. Now, not only was the Brahman Kasya the Guru of 
Krishna, but his children were two sons. 5 Again, for the more 
canonical story of Jesus going to preach " to the spirits in prison," 6 
which was adopted by many of the Fathers 7 and became bound up 
with the Pagan-Christian doctrine of purgatory, there is a parallel 

M. Barth (p. 23) speaks only of " two dogs " as guarding the road to Yama's realm ; but the 
notion seems sufficiently Hindu. See note above as to the Sarameya, and compare 
Gubernatis, Zool. Myth, i, 49, as to Cerberi. Professor Muller decides (Nat. Rel. p. 453) 
that the name Kerberos is from the Sanskrit Sarvari, "the night" — which chimes with 
Wilford's definitions ; but here the assumption of derivation roust be discarded. In 
northern mythology there is sometimes one hell-dog, sometimes more (Rydberg, as cited, 
pp. 276, 280, 362); and there is in the underworld a three-headed giant (Rydberg, pp. 295-6; 
cp. Bergmann, Le Message cle SJcimir, 1871, pp. 99, 154). In Greek mythology Typhon is 
hundred-headed (^Eschylus, Prom. 361; Hesiod. Theog. 825; Pindar, Pyth.i, 29; viii, 23; 
while Cerberus is also fifty-headed (Theog. 312); and Chiiruera, born like Cerberus of the 
dragon-nymph Echidna, has three heads (Theog. 321 ; Horace, 1 Carm. xxvii, 23, 24). 

1 Hindu Pantlieon, pp. 213-4. Compare the varying account of Maurice (ii, 377), 
following the Persian version of the Bhagavat. 

3 See the engraving in Hone's Ancient Mysteries Described, and that on p. 385 of 
Didron's Christian Iconography, Bohn trans. In the latter the saved appear as children. 

3 Augustine, Letter to Evodius, cited by Nicolas, p. 228, n. 

4 Pseudo-Plutarch, Of the Names of Rivers and Mountains, sub. tit. Nile (xvi). 

5 Maurice, as last cited. 6 i p e ter iii, 19. 

7 Clemens Alexandrinus, who accepted it, is in that connection, I know not why, 
stigmatized as heretical. Compare the Abbe Cognat's Clement d ' Alexandrie, p. 466, and 
Jortin's Remarks upon Eccles. Hist. ed. Trollope, i, 231. These writers speak as if there 
were no scriptural basis for the doctrine of the preaching in limbo. It is important, 
however, to remember that Clement drew more systematically on pagan religion than 
any other Christian before or since. Cp. Mosheim's Commentaries on Christian Affairs, 
Vidal's trans, ii, 115-125, 186-190. 


in the Purana myth, in which Krishna, in the earlier part of his 
search for the lost children, reaches the under-sea or over-sea region 
of " Cusha-Dweepa," where he "instructed the Cutila-Cesas in the 
whole system of religious and civil duties." 1 

Doubtless we shall be told once more that the Indian legend 
borrows from the Apocryphal Gospel, without any attempt being 
made to show how or whence the Christian compiler got his story. 
To which we must once more answer that in the Indian version 
the myth has all the stamp of the luxuriant and spontaneous eastern 
imagination, while in the Christian mythology it is one of the most 
obviously alien elements, and in the detailed legend it is a confused 
patchwork. In the Purana, Krishna's blast on his shell at the 
gate of the Shades is perfectly Asiatic ; as is the Greek legend of 
Pan's striking terror in the battle of Gods and Titans by his blast 
on the same instrument ;' 2 in " Nicodemus " the thunderous voice of 
Christ at hell-gate may indeed be compared to the shouting of Mars 
in Homer, but is obviously inspired by some primitive myth, and 
may much more easily be conceived as suggested-by than as 
suggesting the Krishnaite tale. And if we are to choose between 
(a) the proposition that it was through a Christian legend that 
India became possessed of a myth-motive common to half-a-dozen 
ancient faiths before Christianity was heard of, and {b) the inference 
that the Christian legend was more or less directly inspired by the 
Indian legend in something very like the form in which we now 
have it, there can be little room for hesitation among unprejudiced 
students. Such an alternative, however, is not really forced on 
us. There are many reasons for surmising that Hindu and Greek 
mythology may alike have been influenced by the ancient Asiatic 
mythology known to us as Akkadian, which on one hand shaped 
the system of Babylonia, and so wrought on the Greek through Asia 
Minor, and on the other is likely to have had affinities with the 
pre-Aryan cults of India. 3 As to this, thus far, we can only 
speculate, restricting our special reasoning to the problem under 

In regard, finally, to some of the myth-parallels dealt with, it 
might be that the Christian appropriation was made through the 
channel of Buddhism, whence so many elements of the Christian 
system are now held to have come. 4 That question falls to be 

1 Wilford, in Asiatic Researches, iii, 399. Cp. pp. 349, 370. 

2 Eratosthenes, Catasterismi, 27 ; Hyginus, ii, 28. 3 See below, Part III, Div. ii, § 1. 

4 See Mr. Arthur Lillie's work, Buddhism in Christendom, and his smaller work, The 
Influence of Buddhism on Christianity, 1893, for general views and details. As to the 
general Indian reaction on the West, especially under Asoka, see Professor Mahaffy's 
Greek World under Roman Sway, 1890, ch. ii. 


considered apart from the present inquiry, 1 but it lias an obvious- 
bearing on the problem of the relations between Christianity and 
Krishnaism. In regard to Buddhism the actual historical connec- 
tions with Christianity are in some measure made out a posteriori ; 
and if sometimes points are stretched, the general argument is 
impressive. But the argument for Buddhist priority over Chris- 
tianity owes a large part of its strength to the very fact that, as we- 
shall see, the Buddhist legends are to a great extent themselves 
refashionings of Krishna legends. The weakness of the Christian 
position is that it claims originality for a body of lore which, 
obviously non-historical, is as obviously myth in a late and literary 
though unphilosophic stage ; and that this claim is made with no 
attempt at explaining how such myths could so appear without 
antecedents. For the Buddhist mythology, as M. Senart has. 
shown, many of the antecedents lie in that very Krishnaism which 
the prejudiced Christist assumes to be borrowed from his own, so to 
say, virgin-born mythology. For the Krishnaite myths, again, as 
we have in part seen and shall see further, antecedents lay in part 
in the simpler Vedic system, and may further be reasonably assumed 
to have existed in the great mass of popular religion that must have 
flourished outside the sacerdotal system of the Vedas. The scientific 
grievance against scholars like Weber is that they claim priority on 
certain points for Christian myth without once asking the question 
as to whence the Christian myth itself came. 

If, then, it be shown that any of the myths before discussed 
came to Christism through Buddhism, our argument is not im- 
pugned, but strengthened, unless (which is unlikely) it be contended 
that the Buddhist form preceded the Krishnaite. In some cases it 
is plainly probable that the Buddhist legend was the go-between. 
Thus the late Christian myth of the synchronous birth of the 
Christ's cousin, John the Baptist, is reasonably to be traced to the 
Buddhist myth of the synchronous birth of the Buddha's cousin 
Ananda, 2 rather than to the Krishnaite motive of Arjuna or Bala 
Rama ; but this course is reasonable chiefly because the Krishnaite 
system gives an origin for the Buddhist myth. So, too, the motive 
of the Descent into Hell may have been taken by the Christists- 
from the Buddhist fable of Buddha's expedition to preach " like all 
former Buddhas " the law to his mother in the upper- world of 
Tawadeintha, since there not only is the preaching extended to a 
multitude of others of the unearthly population, but there appear 

1 See hereinafter, The Gospel Myths, Div. i, § 10, sub-section III. 

2 Bigandet's Life of Gauduma, Trtibner's ed. i, 36. 


also the mythic "two" — in this case "two sons of Nats," who 
obtain from Buddha "the reward of Thautapan." 1 Certainly 
Krishna's literal descent, and the item of the dragon, are details that 
come specially close to the Christian myth ; and one would have 
expected the Christian borrower to introduce the Christ's mother if 
he had before him the Buddha legend as we now have it. But on 
the other hand he may well have had a different version ; or some 
of the details may have been added to the Christian story at different 
times, as they must have been in the Buddhist. All we can definitely 
stand upon is that the Krishna stories are almost always the more 
primitive ; and that if they are the basis of the mythology of the 
Buddhist system — a system which so largely parallels the Christian 
— it is exorbitant to presume that Krishnaism would systematically 
borrow again from Christianity. In the case of the " preaching to 
the spirits in prison," in particular, the Buddhist myth is on the 
face of it pre-Buddhistic, yet Indian. Our general argument, then, 
for the antiquity of Krishnaism as compared with Christianity, holds 
good through a whole series of myth-motives in respect of which 
Christianity is unquestionably a borrower, and sometimes conceivably 
a borrower from India. 

§ 17. Spurious and Remote Myth-Parallels. 

It remains to consider the minor quasi-coincidences noted by the 
Athenoeum critic 2 between the Krishna saga, as given in the Mahab- 
harata and elsewhere, and the narrative of the Gospels. These are 
(l) Krishna's address to the fig-tree ; (2) his invitation to his 
followers to "worship a mountain"; (3) his teaching that those 
who love the God shall not die; (4) his Transfiguration; (5) his 
being anointed by a woman ; (6) his restoring a widow's dead son to 
life ; (7) his washing of feet ; (8) the hostility of the demon-follower 
who "carries the bag." By this time, perhaps, the reader will be 
slow to suppose that such items stand for any Hindu adaptation of 
the Gospels. Raising once more the crucial question, Whence came 
the Gospel stories ? we are rather led "fco query whether, by way, as 
before suggested, of Buddhism, any of the Gospel stories did not 
come from India. 

Some may be put aside as false coincidences. The Krishnaite 
story of the fig-tree appears to be as edifying as the Christian is 
otherwise ; but there is no sufficient ground even for supposing the 
latter to be a perversion of the former. So with the " worshipping 

1 Id. pp. 219-225. 2 See above, pp. 153-5. 


a mountain," a usage too common in the ancient world to need to 
be suggested by one race to another within our era. The mystic 
teaching as to immortality, again, is certainly pre-Christian in 
Europe and in Egypt, and, in a manner, implicit in Buddhism ; * 
and the Transfiguration of Krishna is simply an item in the sun- 
myth, whence, probably by way of the Neo- Hellenic mysteries, it 
reached the Christians. The disciplinary washing of feet, again, is 
one of the established usages of Buddhistic monkery ; and there is 
positively no reason to doubt that it was so before the Christian era. 
If the Krishna myth borrowed in this instance, it did so at home ; 
but there is every reason to suppose that the religious practice in 
question was common long before the rise of Buddhism. The 
miracle of the raising of the widow's son, again, is precedented long 
before Christianity in the duplicated myth of the Hebrew Elijah and 
Elisha; 2 and as all Semitic mythology centres round Babylon and 
points back to the Akkadians, the story presumptively had a common 
Asiatic currency. In all likelihood it had a solar significance, in 
common with the myths of the slain Osiris and Adonis and the slain 
child Dionysos, over the restoration of both of whom there figures a 
widowed " mother." 3 On this view the resurrection of the Widow's 
Son is only an Evemerized form of the resurrection of the Sun-God 
(himself at his death a widow's son), interpolated in the pseudo- 
biography of the latter as a miracle wrought by him. To suppose 
that such an ancient myth-motive was suddenly appreciated for the 
first time by the miracle-multiplying Hindus only after it had taken 
Christian form, is a course barred to rational criticism. We are left 
to the two connected items of the anointing and the hostile attendant 
with "the bag." 

Obviously it matters nothing from the rationalist point of view 
whether or not these items were conveyed to Krishnaism from 
Christism. But even this scanty measure of debt on the Hindu 
side is entirely unproved ; while there is cause to conclude that on 
the Christian side we are dealing with just another adaptation. 
While the story of the raising of the widow's son occurs in only one 
Gospel, 4 that of the anointing occurs in all ; and as it is non- 
miraculous, the natural tendency is to accept it as historical. Yet a 

1 Cp. Rhys Davids, Buddhism, p. 43. 

2 1 Kings xvii. 21-22 ; 2 Kings iv, 34-35. In the Elisha story, the mother is not a widow ; 
but the husband is " old "; and it would appear that in the unexpurgated form of the story 
the solar prophet was the real father. 

8 For Lactantius, Isis is the mother of the lost or slain "boy" Osiris (Divine Institutes, 
i, 21) ; and Demeter assists at the reanimation of the slain boy Dionysos. Diodorus, iii, 62. 
So in one view the Goddess who mourned for Adonis was the Earth Mother (Macrobius, 
Sat. i, 21) ; and in another Adonis is a child (Apollodoros, III, xiv, 4). 

4 Luke, vii, 11. 


moment's scrutiny shows that its circumstantiality is quite delusive. 
Both the version of the synoptics and that of John are minutely 
circumstantial, and each excludes the other, since John tells the 
story of Mary the sister of Lazarus in her own house, while the 
synoptics specify another house and a strange woman. John's 
version might be excluded as false on the face of it, since it repre- 
sents a pauper household as possessing a peculiarly costly and 
useless article. 1 John's myth, however (itself twice introduced- — 
xi, 2, xii, 3), is only a variant of the other, which in the synoptics is 
related simply of " a woman," but which later fancy, without 
Scriptural warrant, attaches to the mythic personality of Mary 
Magdala, Mary "the Nurse" ( = Maia = Mylitta), a pseudo-historical 
variant of Mary the Mother. 2 And on the principle that " a myth 
is never so graphic and precise in its details as when it is a simple 
transcript of a ceremony which the author of the myth witnessed 
with his eyes," 3 the reasonable presumption is that the anointing 
was a part of a mystery drama, Christian or pre-Christian, or both ; 4 
while the ascription of the act to a " Mary " was a normal expedient 
of the Gospel-makers. 

Finally, we have the myth of the discontented Judas carrying 
11 the bag " — a detail unexplained on the Christian side by any dicta 
as to the source of the money so carried. The story, like that of 
Lazarus and his household, is found in the fourth Gospel only, 5 and. 
is just another non-miraculous myth added to the primary myth of 
Judas the Betrayer. On our theory, 6 that " Judas " is simply a 
fictitious personality made out of Joudaios," a Jew," in a 
Gentile-Christian mystery drama, "the bag" would be to Gentile 
eyes simply the symbol of the act of betrayal for money, the 
receptacle for the " thirty pieces of silver," with perhaps a general 
anti-Semitic suggestion of Jewish usury or avarice. Between this 
and the remote detail in the Mahabharata there seems to be only 
an accidental resemblance. But, if for once there was actually a 
borrowing by India, the smallness of its significance is in striking 
contrast with the claim of which it is the last uncancelled 

1 Evemerism has in private gone so far as the suggestion that Lazarus may have had 
the ointment given him by "Dives "for his sores! There is really as good ground for 
believing that as for accepting the story at all. 

2 See hereinafter, The Gospel Myths, Div. i, § 2. 

3 Frazer, as cited above, p. 182, note. 

* Oil and ointment were alike signified by one Hebrew term (Isa. i, 6, R. V. and marg.) ; 
and the usage of anointing was general in the East. Cp. Isa. lvii, 9. 

5 John xii, 6 ; xiii, 29. 

6 See "The Myth of Judas Iscariot" in the author's Studies in Beligious Fallacy; and 
hereinafter, The Gospel Myths, Div. i, § 17. 


§ 18. Explanation of the Krishna Myth. 

1. We have seen that the latest claims as to the Christian 
origin of Krishnaite legends are only repetitions of guesses made by 
missionaries in the days before comparative mythology, and that 
there is really no more valid argument behind the later than behind 
the earlier statements. It is also the fact, however, that sound and 
satisfying explanations of Krishnaism on the basis of universal 
mythology were sketched nearly a century ago ; though they have 
been completely ignored by the later adherents of the missionary 
view, including even the scholarly and open-minded Professor Weber. 

Not only was the solar character of Krishna recognized by the 
first European investigators, 1 being indeed avowed by the Brahmans, 
but the main elements of the whole myth were soon judiciously 
analyzed. Take the following early exposition : — 

11 The Earth is represented as a Cow, the cow of plenty ; and, as 
the planets were considered by the Hindus to be so many habitable 
Earths, it was natural to describe them by the same hieroglyphic ; 
and as the Sun directs their motions, furnishes them with light, and 
cherishes them with his genial heat, Krishna, the symbol of the Sun, 
was portrayed as an herdsman, sportive, amorous, inconstant. 2 

" The twelve signs are represented as twelve beautiful Nymphs : 
the Sun's apparent passage from one to the other is described as the 
roving of the inconstant Krishna. This was probably the ground- 
work of Jayadeva's elegant poem, the Gita Govinda. It is evidently 
intended by the circular dance exhibited in the Rasijatra. On a 
moveable circle, twelve Krishnas are placed alternately with twelve 
Gopis, hand-in-hand, forming a circle ; the God is thus multiplied to 
attach him to each respectively, to denote the Sun's passage through 
all the signs, and by the rotary motion of the machine the revolution 
of the year is pointed out. 

" Krishna obtains a victory on the banks of the Yamuna over 
the great serpent Caliya Naga, which had poisoned the air, and 
destroyed the herds in that region. This allegory may be explained 
upon the same principle as the exposition given of the destruction of 
the serpent Python by the arrows of Apollo. It is the Sun, which, 
by the powerful action of its beams, purifies the air and disperses the 
noxious vapours of the atmosphere. Both in the Padma and Garuda 

1 The monk Paulinus (quoted by Kleuker, Abhandlungen, as before cited, ii, 236) was 
satisfied that Krishna "originally {primigenie) signified the sun, and indeed the sun in 
eclipse" [here giving a meaning for the "black"], and that "the fable was accordingly to 
be referred to astronomy." He had probably met with the myth of Krishna hiding him- 
self in the moon (Jones, Asiatic Researches, iii,290)— a notion found also in the Osiris myth 
(Land O..C.43). He further saw that the mythic wars meant that "the sun in the heavens 
fought with planets, stars, and clouds," and that the quasi-historic (it is not clear if he 
thought there was ever a real) Krishna was as it were a "terrestrial sun or" [here antici- 
pating Lassen] " Hercules, as Arrian has it." 

2 It should be added that, as later inquirers have noted, the clouds are cows in the 
Vedas, as in the myth of Hermes, and that this idea also enters largely into the Krishnaite 


[Puranas] we find the serpent Caliya, whom Krishna slew in his 
childhood, amongst the deities ' worshipped on this day, as the 
Pythian snake, according to Clemens, was adored with Apollo at 
Delphi.' Perhaps this adventure of Krishna with the Caliya Naga 
may be traced on our sphere, for we find there Serpentarius on the 
banks of the heavenly Yamuna, the milky way, contending as it were 
with an enormous serpent, which he grasps with both his hands. 

" The identity of Apollo Nomios and Krishna is obvious ; both 
are inventors of the flute ; and Krishna is disappointed by Tulasi as 
Apollo was deluded by Daphne ; each nymph being changed to a 
tree ; hence the tulasi is sacred to Krishna, as the laurus was to 

11 The story of Nareda visiting the numerous chambers of Krishna's 
seraglio and finding Krishna everywhere, appears to allude to the 
universality of the Sun's appearance at the time of the Equinoxes, 
there being then no part of the earth where he is not visible in the 
course of the twenty-four hours. The Demons sent to destroy 
Krishna are perhaps no more than the monsters of the sky, which 
allegorically may be said to attempt in vain to obstruct his progress 
through the Heavens. Many of the playful adventures of Krishna's 
childhood are possibly mere poetical embellishments to complete the 
picture." 1 

Here is a rational, a scientific explanation of some of the main 
outlines of the Krishna myth, which holds good independently of 
the author's further theory that the origin of Krishnaism lay in the 
separation of the sect of Vaishnavas from the Saivas, and that the 
legends may contain an element of allegory on the persecution of the 
new sect. The former part of that theory was put forward also by 
Colebrooke, who held that " the worship of Rama and of Krishna by 
the Vaishnavas, and that of Mahadeva and Bhavani by the Saivas 
and Sactas, have been introduced since the persecution of the 
Bauddhas and Jainas." 2 But the same sound scholar declares that 
he supposes both Rama and Krishna to have been " known charac- 
ters in ancient fabulous history," and conjectures " that on the same 
basis new fables have been constructed, elevating those personages 
to the rank of Gods." 3 Hence he opposed the surmise that early 
references to Krishna in the sacred books were interpolations. 
There can be little doubt, I think, that Colebrooke would have 
admitted the " new fables "to be in many cases new only in their 
application, and to be really repetitions of the ancient myths of the 
race. This proposition, inductively proved, renders impregnable the 
earlier deductive position. 

l Patterson, in Asiatic Researches, viii (1803), pp. 64-5. As to the astronomic significance 
of the dance in Greece, see Donaldson, Theatre of the Greeks, 7th ed. p. 24. 
1 Asiatic Researches, viii, 474. » Ic i. i x , 293. 


Every solar hero or deity necessarily repeats certain features in 
the myths of his predecessors ; and this the more surely because on 
the one hand the popular fancy is so far from being clearly conscious 
of the identities between God and God, or hero and hero, 1 and because 
on the other the priest either sees in these, like the Jews, a system 
of types, or, like the Pagans, sees no harm in mystic correspondences. 
It is thus that so many dynasties of Gods have been built out of the 
same fabulous material. Now, though Krishna, figuring as he does 
as a demon in the Vedas, was presumably an outsiders' God even in 
the Vedic period, with what qualities we know not, we can find in 
the Vedas precedent for all his main features. Agni, the Fire-God, 
always tending to be identified with the Sun, is the prototype of the 
modern Krishna, not only in respect of being a marvellous child, but 
of being a lover of maidens : "Agni, as Yama, is all that is born ; as 
Yama, all that will be born : he is the lover of maidens, the husband 
of wives." 2 That, indeed, is an extremely natural characteristic, 
whether mystic or anthropomorphic, of all popular deities in primitive 
times ; and M. Senart notes 3 that in a Vedic description of a storm, 
Soma, the personified God of the libation or eucharist, " plays among 
the Apas like a man among beautiful young girls." But "it is above 
all to the atmospheric Agni that we must trace voluptuous legends 
like those which have received such an important place in the 
Krishnaite myth "; 4 and for the multiplications of Krishna also we 
find the prototype in the child Agni, who, at his birth, " enters into 
all houses and disdains no man." 5 And this view is substantially 
adopted by the leading English mythologists. On the relations of 
Krishna with the Gopis Sir George Cox writes : — 

" This myth is in strict accordance with the old Vedic phrase addressed to 
the Sun as the horse : ' After thee is the chariot ; after thee, Arvan, the 
man ; after thee the cows ; after thee the host of the girls.' Thus, like 
Agni, Indra, and Yama, he is the husband of the wives, an expression which, 
in Professor Max Miiller's opinion, was probably ' meant originally for the 
evening sun as surrounded by the splendours of the gloaming, as it were by 
a more serene repetition of the dawn. The Dawn herself is likewise called 
the wife ; but the expression " husband of the wives " is in another passage 
clearly applied to the sinking sun, B.V. ix, 86, 32: "The husband of the 
wives approaches the end." ' " G 

1 " The story of Perseus is essentially the same as the story of his more illustrious 
descendent [Herakles]; and the profound unconsciousness of the Argives that the two 
narratives are in their groundwork identical is a singular illustration of the extent to 
which men can have all their critical faculties lulled to sleep by mere differences of names 
or of local colouring in legends which are only modifications of a single myth" (Cox, 
Mythol. of Aryan Nations, p. 303). 

2 Wilson's tr. of Rig Veda Sanhita. i, 181. 3 Essai, p. 321. i Id. p. 322. 

5 Id. p. 291, citing R.V. x, 91, 2, from Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, v, 204. 

6 Cox, as cited, p. 369, n. 


The same writer, who makes an independent and able analysis of 
the Krishna myth, sums up as follows on the general question : — 

" If it be urged that the attribution to Krishna of qualities or powers 
belonging to other deities is a mere device by which his devotees sought to 
supersede the more ancient gods, the answer must be that nothing is done in 
his case which has not been done in the case of almost every other member 
of the great company of the gods, and that the systematic adoption of the 
method is itself conclusive proof of the looseness and flexibility of the 
materials of which the cumbrous mythology of the Hindu epic poems is 
composed." 1 And again: "It is true, of course, that these myths have 
been crystallized round the name of Krishna in ages subsequent to the 
period during which the earliest Vedic literature came into existence ; but 
the myths themselves are found in this older literature associated with other 
gods, and not always only in germ. Krishna as slaying the dragon is simply 
Indra smiting Vritra or Ahi, or Phoibos destroying the Python. There is no 
more room for inferring foreign influence in the growth of these myths than, 
as Bunsen rightly insists, there is room for tracing Christian influence in the 
earlier epical literature of the Teutonic tribes." 2 

The fluidity of the whole of the myth material under notice is yet 
further illustrated in the following sketch of Krishna's many meta- 
morphoses : — 

"He is also identified with Hari or the dwarf Vishnu, a myth which 

carries us to that of the child Hermes as well as to the story of the limping 
Hephaistos. As the son of Nanda, the bull, he is Govinda, a name which 
gave rise in times later than those of the Mahabharata to the stories of his 
life with the cowherds and his dalliance with their wives ; but in the 
Mahabharata he is already the protector of cattle, and like Herakles slays 
the bull which ravaged the herds [Muir, Sanskrit Texts, iv, 206]. His 
name Krishna, again, is connected with another parentage which makes 
him the progeny of the black hair of Hari, the dwarf Vishnu [lb. 331]. 
But he is also Hari himself, and Hari is Narayana, ' the God who transcends 
all, the minutest of the minute, the vastest of the vast, the greatest of the 
great.' In short, the interchange or contradiction is undisguised, for he is 
' the soul of all, the omniscient, the all, the all-knowing, the producer of all, 
the God whom the Goddess Devaki bore to Vishnu.' 3 

" The character of Rudra, said to be sprung from Krishna, is not more 
definite. As so produced, he is Time, and is declared by his father to be 
the offspring of his anger. But in the character of Mahadeva, Rudra is 
worshipped by Krishna, and the necessary explanation is that in so adoring 
him Krishna was only worshipping himself. Rudra, however, is also 

Narayana, and Siva the destroyer It is the same with Rama, who 

is sometimes produced from the half of Vishnu's virile power, and 
sometimes addressed by Brahma as ' the source of being and the cause of 
destruction, Upendra and Mahendra, the younger and elder Indra.' 4 

1 Id. p. 365. 2 Id. P. 371, n. 

3 Sic in Cox ; but Muir, who is cited, has to Vasudeva," p. 224. 

4 Muir, iv, 146, 250. So cited in Cox; but 250 should apparently be 150, wnere m& 
passage runs : " Thou art the source of being and cause of destruction, u pendra line 
younger Indra), and Madhusudana. Thou art Mahendra (the older Indra) 


This cumbrous mysticism leads us further and further from the simpler 
conceptions of the oldest mythology, in which Rudra is scarcely more than 
an epithet, applied sometimes to Agni, sometimes to Mitra, Varuna, the 

Asvins, or the Maruts It was in accordance with the general course of 

Hindu mythology that the greatness of Rudra, who is sometimes regarded 
as self-existent, should be obscured by that of his children." 1 

Further illustration could be given, if need were, of this inter - 
fluence of myths in the case of the three Ramas, Bala Rama, 
Parasu 2 Rama, and Rama Chandra, who pass for three different 
incarnations of Vishnu, but who were early surmised by students to 
be " three representatives of one person, or three different ways of 
relating the same history," 3 and whom M. Senart declares to be 
indeed mythologically one : — 

" In effect, there is really only one Rama. The contrary opinion of Lassen 
(Ind. Alt. ii, 2, 503) rests on an Evemerism which will find, I think, few 

adherents. But he appears to us under a triple form the popular Rama, 

brother of Krishna; the Brahmanic Rama, who destroys the Kshatriyas ; 
the Kshatriya Rama, King's son and happy conqueror. The axe of the 
second, like the ploughshare of the first, represents the same weapon of 
thunder, which the hero wields against the demons." 4 

Now, Bala Rama, whom Sir William Jones 5 identified with the 
Greek and " Indian " Dionysos, but whom we have seen to be 
probably the Herakles of Megasthenes, " appears to be an ancient 
agricultural deity that presided over the tillage of the soil and the 
harvest. He is armed with a ploughshare, 7 whence his surname 
Halabhrit, ' the plough-bearer '; and his distinctive characteristic 
is an ungovernable passion for bacchanalian revels, inebriation, and 
sensual love." 8 Like each of his duplicates, he was doubtless con- 
tingently a Sun-God (Rama Chandra, who represents the moon, 9 
being also solar) ; 10 and it might conceivably have been his fortune 
to become the supremely popular deity instead of Krishna. He too 
has a Birth Festival, which Weber supposes to be based on that of 
Krishna, which it very closely resembles ; he too figures then as the 
Child-God ; and he too is associated with the stable-myth in that 

1 Cox, pp. 365-7. 

a According to Moor, " Pavasu " means a sword ; according to Balfour's Ind. Cycl., a 
club ; according to Tiele (before cited), an axe ! 

8 Moor, Hindu Pantheon, p. 191. 

4 Essai, p. 234, n. r > Asiatic Researches, ii, 132. 

6 Above, p. 163. 7 See Moor, as cited above, pp. 163-4. 

H Barth, p. 173. M. Senart writes (p. 325, n) : "As to his name of Bala, the analogy of 
Krishna would suggest that it also had originally a more specially demonic significance, 
and that the form Bala is only an alteration of Vala, a Vedic personage connected by 
name and function with Vritra. This is indeed certain as regards the epic Bala, enemy 
of Indra." In the same note M. Senart draws a connection between Rama and the 
Persian Rama-gastra, who is an atmospheric genie watching the " pastures " of Mithra, 
and who figures both as lightning and sun. 

9 Barth, p. 177. 

10 See above, p. 147, citing Tiele, and p. 164, citing Moor. 


Jamadagni, the father of Parasu Rama, was entrusted by Indra 
with the charge of the boon-granting cow, Kamadenu. 1 His old 
standing was the cause of his being made Krishna's twin ; and at 
present he ranks next him in popularity. 2 It is even conceivable 
that he is for historic India the original " Child born in a Stable "; 
and as a God of Vegetation he may have been carried in the corn- 
basket by way of an incantation to make the fields fruitful. On the 
other hand, he has assimilated clearly solar attributes. " Like 
Krishna, Rama is a hero, an exterminator of monsters, a victorious 
warrior. But, idealized by the poetry of a more fastidious age, and 
one less affected by the myth [i.e., in the Ramayana] , he is at the 
same time, what we cannot maintain in regard to the enigmatic son 
of Devaki, the finished type of submission to duty, nobility of moral 
character, and of chivalric generosity." 3 Krishna in turn, however, 
has his transfiguration in the Bhagavat Gita. In fine, ancient 
India, then as now a manifold world of differing peoples and faiths, 
had a crowd of Sun-Gods apart from those of the priest-made Vedas, 
but based like those on immemorial myth ; and of these Krishna, 
ancient as the others were ancient, is the one who, by dint of 
literary and sectarian manipulation, has been best able to survive." 

2. It may be, however, that while the antiquity of the main 
material of Krishnaism is admitted, it will still be argued, as by 
Weber, that only in comparatively late times was Krishna a deity 
at all, and that this alleged lateness of creation permitted of, and 
partly depended on, the adoption of some of the Christian legends 
early in our era. But it will be necessary, I think, only to state 
Weber's position in contrast with the argument of M. Senart to 
make clear the soundness of the latter and the untenableness of the 

Weber seeks to trace the rise of Krishnaism by way of the 
chronological order of the references in the documents, taking the 
Vedic allusions as representing the beginnings of the cult, the passage 
in the Khandogya Upanishad as pointing to a quasi-historic per- 
sonage, the legends in the Mahabharata as a development of his 
story, and so on. 4 M. Senart, in answer, points first to the admitted 
fact that the Kansa legend was already old for Patanjali, and 
contends that the presence in that text of the name of Govinda 
sufficiently shows that the myth of the sojourn among the shepherds, 
which was the inseparable preparation for the slaying of the tyrant, 
was already ancient and popular, and that it was as the companion 

1 Moor, p. 190. 2 Moor, p. 192. 

3 Barth, p. 176. 4 Treatise cited, p. 316. 


of shepherds and lover of the Gopis, not as the hero of the epic, 
that Krishna was first deified. 1 It may be added that the antiquity 
of the similar myth in connection with Cyrus is a further ground 
for the same conclusion, as has been shown above. M. Senart then 
goes on to cite, what is perhaps less important, the testimony of 
Alexander Polyhistor [fl. 85 B.C.] that in his day the Brahmans 
worshipped Herakles and Pan. There is, M. Senart argues, no 
other Hindu deity who could so well suit the latter title as Krishna 
— a contention which seems to me inconclusive in the circumstances. 
Might not Alexander's Pan be Siva, whom M. Barth, 2 following 
Lassen, identifies with the Dionysos of Megasthenes ? Certainly 
the latter is the more plausible conjecture ; but is not Dionysos 
fully as close a parallel to Krishna as Pan would be ? In any case, 
though M. Senart connects his conjecture, as to Krishna being 
Alexander's Pan, with the rest of his argument, that works itself 
out independently, and will stand very well on its own merits : — 

" This testimony is the more important in that it leads us to 
carry further back the date of the legends of this order. M. Lassen, 
in spite of his opinions on the antiquity of the doctrine of Avataras 
and the cult of Krishna, seems on this point to go even further than 
M. Weber. In support of that opinion there is little weight in the 
negative argument from the silence of the ancient works which have 
come down to us. What idea should we have had of the date and 
importance of Buddhism, if we were shut up to the testimony of 
Brahmanic literature ? We can certainly distinguish in Krishna a 
triple personage ; it does not follow, however, that these mean 
simply three successive aspects of the same type, until it be deter- 
mined that logically they derive and develop one from the other. 
Now, the fact is quite the contrary ; an abyss separates each one of 
these stages from the next, if we take them in the supposed order. 
How could a sacred poet, the obscure disciple of a certain Ghora, 
suddenly have become the national hero of an important Indian 
people, the bellicose performer of so many exploits, not merely 
marvellous, but clearly mythological ? And how could this warrior, 
raised so high, from the epic period, in the admiration and even in 
the worship of Indians, be subsequently lowered to the position of 
the adopted child of a shepherd, the companion of shepherds, and 
mixed up in dubious adventures, which do not fail at times to 
disquiet and embarrass his devotees ? It is clear that the first step 
at least of such an evolution could be made only under powerful sacer- 
dotal pressure : now there exists in this connection no sign of such 
a thing in the literature we possess ; the cult of Krishna is not a 
Brahmanic but a popular cult. In fine, there is no doubt that we 
must reverse the statement. Krishna must have been at first the 

1 Essai, p. 339. 2 As cited, p. 163. 


object of a secondary cult, connected especially, as it remained in 
the sequel, with the legends of his birth, of his infancy, and of his 
youth. Localized at first among the Surasenas and at Mathura, 
this cult would have sufficed to introduce into the epic legend of the 
Kshatriyas, fixed in that epoch under Brahmanic influence, the 
bellicose character in which we know him. On its part, the Brah- 
manic school, desirous to appropriate him, would put him in the 
list of its singers and masters, until the ever more powerful spread 
of his popularity forced it to embrace him, under the title of Avatara 
of Vishnu, in its new theory and in its modern systems. It must 
not be forgotten that the organization of castes creates, alongside 
of the chronological succession, a superposition not only of social 
classes but of traditions and ideas which could live long side by side 
in a profound isolation. Thus considered, the history of the cult of 
Krishna resolves itself into two periods, which I would not, however, 
represent as necessarily and strictly successive. Krishna was at 
first a quite popular deity, whose worship, more or less narrowly 
localized, spread little by little ; till at length, identified with 
Vishnu and admitted to the number of his incarnations, he was 
ipso facto recognized by the superior caste. 1 

"It is possible, indeed, that Christian influences may have 
developed among the Indians in his connection the monotheistic 

idea and the doctrine of faith However that may be, what 

interests us chiefly at present is the age not so much of his cult, 
still less of a certain form of his cult, but of the legend of the hero, 
and more precisely of that part of his legend which embraces his 
infancy and his youth. Now, this narrative has its roots in the 
images of a perfectly authentic naturalism ; it cannot be isolated from 
the various kindred mythological series ; and if we only apply, with- 
out rashness and without prejudice, the customary methods of 
mythological analysis, it leads us obviously to more ancient concep- 
tions ; and the homogeneity which is exhibited by the whole demon- 
strates the normal and consequent development of all the parts. 
Several precise testimonies, independent of any argument borrowed 
from resemblances, attest the existence of essential elements of the 
legend at an epoch when there can be no question of those influences 
which have been conjectured ; and these influences finally rest on a 
very limited number of very inconclusive facts, which, besides, only 
touch entirely secondary details." 

This argument has been criticized by Weber in a review of 
M. Senart's essay, in which, while differing from his conclusions, he 

1 A passage in the Mahabharata shows this evolution clearly enough :— " And thou 
Krishna, of the Yadava race, having become the son of Aditi, and being called \ ishnu, 
the younger brother of Indra, the all-pervading, becoming a child, O vexer of thy foes, 
hadst by thy energy traversed the sky, the atmosphere, and the earth, in three strides. 
Having attained to the sky and the ether, and occupied the abode of the Adityas, thou, 
O soul of all beings, hast overpassed the sun by thine own force. In these thousands of 
thy manifestations, O all-pervading Krishna, thou hast slain hundreds of Asuras, who 
delighted in iniquity." Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, iv, 118. 


speaks in high terms of his French opponent's scholarship and 
ability. With his invariable candour, the Professor, remarking that 
the theory of Krishna's herdsmanship being derived from the cloud- 
cows of the Vedas is new to him, 1 admits that in itself it is very 
plausible. But he goes on : — 

" Only in the latest texts do we find this Gopi idyl : the older records 
knoio nothing of it, but recognize Krishna only as an assiduous pupil or brave 
hero. Recently, indeed, passages have been made known from the Mahab- 
hashya which set forth Krishna's relation to Kansa ; even further, from 
Panini, his being evidently worshipped as Vasudeva: and the existence of 

his epithet Kesava ; but, on the one hand, the herdsman idyl is there 

awanting : and on the other, in view of the doubts which Burnell and 

Bohtlingk have expressed in connection with my inquiry, as to the value of 
the evidence for Patanjali's date given by the words and citations in the 
Mahabhashya, Senart's assumption that that work dates ' from before the 
Christian era ' is very questionable. The testimony of Alexander Polyhistor, 
that the Brahmans worshipped a Hercules and a Pan, is again too vague to 
permit of its being founded on in this matter." 2 

The force of the last objection I have admitted ; and as to the 
date of Patanjali, of which Weber had seemed formerly 3 to take 
Professor Bhandarkar's view (shared by both Senart and Barth), it 
can only be said that if the " doubts " are ever strengthened, that 
part of our evidences will have to be reconsidered ; though Weber 
and the doubters will also have to face and explain the fact, which 
they constantly overlook, of the ancient currency of the Cyrus myth 
on the Iranian side. In any case Patanjali would have to be dated 
very late to countervail the implied antiquity of the phrases he 
quotes. But as regards the Professor's objection that the Gopt 
idyl is not mentioned in the oldest documentary references to 
Krishna, the reader will at once see that it is no answer to M. 
Senart, whose argument is that the Gopi idyl is part of an imme- 
morial popular myth, originally current outside the Brahmanic 
sphere. Nor does the Professor in any way meet M. Senart's 
refutation of his own development theory, or answer the questions 
as to how (1) the deity could be developed out of the student of the 
Upanishad, and how (2) the warrior hero of the epic could be 
lowered from that status to the position of the adopted son of a 
shepherd and companion of shepherds, given to dubious adventures, 
unless there were an old myth to that effect ? 4 These questions are 

1 Though, as we have seen, the stealing and herding of cows has such a significance in 
Greek myths. 

2 hidische Streifen, iii, 429. 3 See above, pp. 157-8. 

4 There are in the Mahabharata allusions which show the herdsman characteristics to 
have been associated with the hero. See Senart, p. 340, n. 


really unanswerable. We are left to the irresistible conclusion that 
the myths of Krishna's birth and youth are not only pre-Christian 
but pre-historic. 

3. But yet one more reinforcement of the strongest kind is 
given to the whole argument by M. Senart's demonstration 1 of the 
derivation of a large part of the Buddha myth from that of Krishna, 
or from pre-Krishnaite sources. It is needless here to give at length 
the details, which include such items as the breaking of Siva's bow 
by Kama, the God of Love, of Kansa's by Krishna, and of various 
bows by Siddartha (Buddha) ; 2 the exploit against the elephant, 
similarly common to the three personages; 3 the parallel between 
the births of Buddha and Krishna ; 4 their early life of pleasure, 5 and 
their descent from "enemies of the Gods." 6 The prodigy of the 
divine infant speaking immediately after birth occurs in the Buddha 
myth as in those of Krishna, Hermes, Apollo, and Jesus; 7 and 
where Krishna, as Sun-God, takes three miraculous strides, the 
infant Buddha takes seven marvellous steps. 8 There is, in fine, a 
"close relationship" between the Buddhist and the Krishnaite 
legends, 9 as we have partly seen above. " In nearly all the 
variations of this legendary theme one point remains fixed and 
constant : it is among shepherds that the hero is exiled ; and it is 
impossible to separate from the series either the vraja or the herds- 
men and herdswomen who surround the youth of Krishna. And 
this trait is found in the story of Sakya." 10 

And while it is impossible to say with certainty how and whence 
the Buddhist adaptations were made, it is frequently found here, as 
in the Christian parallels, that the Krishnaite form of a given story 
is by far the more natural. The exploit against the elephant 
evidently " belonged to the Krishnaite legend before being introduced 
into the life of Sakya [Buddha] : it is infinitely better motived in 
the former than in the latter." Again, the genealogy of Buddha is 
in large part a variant on that of Kama. If, then, the theory of 
imitation from Christian legends were sound, we should have to 
hold either (a) that Buddhism, which ostensibly influenced Chris- 
tianity, did not even borrow from Christianity direct, but did it at 
second-hand through Krishnaism, or (b) that Krishnaism borrowed 
from Buddhism legends which the Buddhists had already assimi- 
lated from the Christians. We have now seen reason enough to 

1 Essai, p. 297 ff. 2 Id. p. 302. 3 Id. p. 303. 

4 Id. p. 312. 5 zd. p. 305. 6 Id. p. 315. 

7 See above, p. 190. 

8 Bigandet, Life of Gaudama, i, 37 ; and Beal's trans, of the Fo-Sho-Hzng-Tsan-King, 

9 Senart, Essai, p. 326. W Id. p. 319. 


decide that such theories are untenable. It remains to investigate 
the theory of doctrinal as distinct from mythical assimilations. 

§ 19. Krishnaite and Christist Doctrine. 
Professor Weber has more than once advanced the opinion that, 
in addition to the mythical narratives which we have discussed in 
the foregoing sections, Krishnaism borrowed from Christianity 
certain of its leading doctrines, in particular its insistence on the 
need and value of " faith," and its monotheistic view of its deity. 
One of his earlier statements of this opinion has been already cited, 1 
and he has maintained it to the last. In the "Birth Festival" 
treatise, after enumerating the alleged myth-imitations, he continues: 

" Their Christian origin is as little to be doubted as the conclusion [Ind. 
Studien, i, 423] that ' in general the later exclusively monotheistic tendency 
of the Indian sects who worship a particular personal God, pray for his 
favour, and trust in him (bhakti and sraddlw), was influenced by the 
acquaintance made by the Indians with the corresponding teaching of 
Christianity'; or, in the words of Wilson (quoted in Mrs. Speir's Life in 
Ancient India, p. 434 : cp. my Abh. ilber die Rdmdtdp. Up. pp. 277, 360), 
' that the remodelling of the ancient Hindu systems into popular forms, and 
in particular the vital importance of faith, were directly [sic] influenced by 
the diffusion of the Christian religion.'" 2 

Here, it will be seen, Weber quotes Wilson at secondhand from 
Mrs. Speir, who cited an Indian magazine. She made the blunder 
of writing " directly " for " indirectly "; but she states fairly enough 
that Wilson only " hints " his opinion ; and this the Professor over- 
looks, though doubtless he would have given Wilson's passage fully 
if he had been able to lay his hands on it. Its effect is so different 
when quoted in full that it is well so to transcribe it : — 

"It is impossible to avoid noticing in the double doctrine of the 
Gita an analogy to the double doctrine of the early Christian 
Church ; and the same question as to the merits of contemplative 
and practical religion engendered many differences of opinion and 
observance in the first ages of Christianity. These discussions, it is 
true, grew out of the admixture of the Platonic philosophical notions 
with the lessons of Christianity, and had long pervaded the East 
before the commencement of our era ; it would not follow, therefore, 
that the divisions of the Christian Church originated the doctrine of 
the Hindus, and there is no reason to doubt that in all essential 
respects the Hindu schools arc of a much earlier date ; at the same 
time, it is not at all unlikely that the speculations of those schools 
were reagitated and remodified in the general stimulus which Chris- 
tianity seems to have given to metaphysical inquiry ; and it is not 

1 Above, p. 165. 2 Treatise cited, p. 339 


impossible that the attempts to model the ancient systems into a 
popular form, by engrafting on them in particular the vital impor- 
tance of faith, were indirectly influenced by the diffusion of the 
Christian religion. It is highly desirable that this subject should be 
further investigated." 1 

This, it will be seen, is a very different deliverance from Weber's, 
and also from what Wilson is made to say in the incomplete and 
inaccurate quotation of his words. Weber, without bringing for- 
ward any important new facts, makes a positive assertion where 
Wilson expressed himself very cautiously and doubtfully, and does 
not meet (having apparently not seen) Wilson's propositions as to 
the antiquity in India of the general pantheistic doctrine which 
prevailed in the East before Christianity. 2 

Before we come to a decision on the point at issue, it may be well 
to see what it was exactly that Wilson understood by the doctrine of 
faith, which he thought might possibly be indirectly influenced by 
Christianity, and which Weber holds to be without doubt entirely 
derived thence. In his Oxford lectures Wilson declares that in the 
Puranas the doctrine of the sufficiency of faith is 

" carried to the very utmost abuse of which it is susceptible. Entire 
dependency on Krishna, or any other favourite deity, not only obviates 
the necessity of virtue, but it sanctifies vice. Conduct is wholly immaterial. 
It matters not how atrocious a sinner a man may be, if he paints his face, 
his breast, his arms, with certain sectarial marks, or, which is better, if he 
brands his skin permanently with them with a hot iron stamp ; if he is con- ' 
stantly chanting hymns in honour of Vishnu ; or, what is equally efficacious, 
if he spends hours in the simple reiteration of his name or names ; if he die 
with the word Hari or Rama or Krishna on his lips, and the thought of him 
in his mind, he may have lived a monster of iniquity, he is certain of 
heaven." 3 

1 H. H. Wilson, in review of Schlegel's trans, of the Bhagavat Gita, Orient. Quart. Rev. 
Calcutta, vol. iii; reprinted in Works, vol. v, pp. 156-7. 

2 Weber's misunderstanding as to Wilson's view on bhakti seems to have become a 
fixed idea. In a later letter to Dr. John Muir on the subject, he speaks yet again of 
''Wilson's theory that the bhakti of the later Hindu sects is essentially a Christian 
doctrine." Wilson, as we have seen, had no such opinion. Dr. Muir might well write : " I 
am not aware in which, if in any, of his writings Professor Wilson may have expressed the 
opinion that the Indian tenet of bnakti is essentially Christian. I find no express state- 
ment to this effect in his Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus, though he there says 
that ' the doctrine of the efficacy of bhakti seems to have been an important innovation 
upon the primitive system of the Hindu religion ' " (Art. in Indian Antiquary, March, 1875, 
vol. iv, p. 79). 

3 Two Lectures on the Beligious Practices of tlie Hindus, Oxford, 1840, p. 31=Works, 

ii, 75. See also Works, i, 368. Weber, too (Hist, of Ind. Lit. p. 209, note), declares that "it is 
the worship of Krishna that has chiefly countenanced and furthered the moral degrada- 
tion of the Hindus." The Professor does not appear to bring this thesis into connection 
with his argument that Krishnaism has borrowed doctrines as well as myths from Chris- 
tianity. He gives a certificate of merit to Sivaism as against Krishnaism, but the question 
is a very dubious one. Cp. Neve, Les epoques litteraires de VInde, 1883, pp. 214-215. It is 
well to keep in mind that while Krishnaism, like Christism, can be turned to the account 
of lawlessness, it has similarly been turned to higher ends. Thus the Brahman reformer 
Chaitanya, who flourished in the sixteenth century, and whose movement still flourishes 
in Bengal, made "discipline of the intellect and a surrender of all to Krishna" one of his 
main positions. Max Miiller, Natural Religion, p. 100. And Prof. Garbe notes how in the 
Bhagavat Gita Krishna is made to utter the highest practical ethic. Philos. of Anc. India, 
Eng. tr. ed. 1899, p. 24. 


It cannot be denied that all this bears a very close resemblance 
to the practical applications of the Christian doctrine of faith in 
European history, and that that is of all Christian doctrines the one 
which may with most plausibility be held to have originated, in 
Europe, with the New Testament. Nor is it incumbent on ration- 
alists to object that such a derivation brings small credit to Chris- 
tianity. An impartial inquiry, however, reveals that the doctrine of 
salvation by faith is already fully laid down in the Bhagavat Gita ; 
and the Christian hypothesis involves the conclusion that that 
famous document is a patchwork of Christian teaching. Now, 
there are decisive reasons for rejecting such a view. 

2. Its most confident and systematic expositor is Dr. F. Lorinser, 
a German translator of the Gita, whose position is that " the author 
[of the Gita] knew the New Testament writings, which, so far as he 
thought fit, he used, and of which he pieced into his work many 
passages (if not textually, then following the sense, and adapting it 
to his Indian fashion of composition), though these facts have 
hitherto not been observed or pointed out by anyone." 1 This 
startling proposition, which is nominally supported by citation of 
the general opinions of Weber, rests deductively on early Christian 
statements as to the introduction of Christianity into " India," and 
inductively on a number of parallels between the New Testament 
and the Gita. The statements in question are those of Eusebius as 
to the mission of Pantaenus, and of Chrysostom as to an " Indian " 
translation of the fourth Gospel, and possibly of the Joannine 
epistles. The narrative of Eusebius is as follows : — 

" The tradition is, that this philosopher was then in great eminence 

He is said to have displayed such ardour and so zealous a disposition respect- 
ing the divine word, that he was constituted a herald of the Gospel to the 
nations of the East, and advanced even as far as India. There were even 
there yet many evangelists of the word, who were ardently striving to employ 
their inspired zeal after the apostolic example, to increase and build up the 
divine word. Of these Pantcenus is said to have been one, and to have come 
as far as the Indies. And the report is that he there found his own arrival 
anticipated by some who were acquainted with the Gospel of Matthew, to 
whom Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached, and had left them 
the Gospel of Matthew in the Hebrew, which was also preserved until this 
time. Pantsenus, after many praiseworthy deeds, was finally at the head of 
the Alexandrian school." 2 

The statement of Chrysostom, again, is that " the Syrians, and the 
Egyptians, and the Indians, and the Persians, and the Ethiopians, 

1 Die Bhagavad-Gita, iibersetzt und erlautert von Dr. F. Lorinser, Breslau, 1869, p. 272. 
(The argumentative appendix has been translated in part in the Indian Antiquary, 
October, 1873, vol. i, pp. 283-296.) 

2 Eccles. Hist, v, 10 (Bohn trans.). 


and innumerable (pvpia) other peoples, were taught, though bar- 
barians, to be philosophers, by his [John's] teachings translated 
into their own language." 1 

On this latter record Dr. Lorinser comments : — 

" It may be argued that the significance of this testimony is weakened by 
the addition ' and innumerable other peoples.' This apprehension, however, 
disappears when we consider that all the translations here specified by name, 
with the single exception of the Indian, are both heard of otherwise and still 
in existence. In any case, Chrysostom would not here have explicitly named 
the Indians if he had not had positive knowledge of an existing translation in 
their language. Chrysostom died in the year 407 A.C. The Indian trans- 
lation of which he had knowledge must have existed at least a hundred years 
earlier, for the knowledge of it to reach him in those days. Apparently, 
however, Pantsenus, the teacher of Clemens Alexandrinus, of whom we know 
that he had himself been in India, had already brought this knowledge to 
the West. The origin of this translation may thus possibly go back to the 
first or second century after Christ." 2 

The most surprising point about this argument is that Dr. Lorinser 
seems entirely unaware that the names " India " and " Indians " were 
normally applied by ancient writers to countries and peoples other 
than India proper. Yet not only is this general fact notorious, 3 but 
it has been made the occasion of much dispute as to what country 
it was that Pantsenus visited, even orthodox opinion finally coming 
round to the view that it was not India at all. Mosheim wrote that 
most of the learned had held it to be Eastern India proper — an. 
opinion countenanced by the statement of Jerome that Pantasnus 
was sent apud Brachma?ias. A But the name Brachman was, as he 
further pointed out, used as loosely by the ancients as that of India J 
and the evidence of Jerome further varies from that of Eusebius in 
stating 5 that the " Indians " had sent delegates to Alexandria asking 
for a Christian instructor, and that Bishop Demetrius sent Pantsenus. 
That Indian Brahmans should have sent such a deputation is simply 
inconceivable. Vales, Holstein, and others, accordingly surmised 
that the mission was to Ethiopia or Abyssinia, which was con- 
stantly called India by the ancients. Mosheim, rationally arguing 

1 Comm. in S. Joann. Horn, ii (i) 2, in Cap. i, v. 1. (Migne, Ser. Gr. lix, 32). 

2 Work cited, pp. 268-9. 

3 " After the time of Herodotus the name India was applied to all lands in the south- 
western world, to east Persia and south Arabia, to Ethiopia, Egypt, and Libya; in short, 
to all dark-skinned peoples, who in Homer's time, as Ethiopians, were allotted the whole 
horizon (Lichtrand) of the South. Virgil and others signify by India just the East; but 
most commonly it stands for southern Arabia and Ethiopia." (Von Bohlen, Das alte 
Indien, i, 9-10, citing Virg. ffln. viii, 705; Georg. ii, 116, 172; Diodor. iii, 31; Lucan, ix, 517; 
Fabric. Cod. Apoc. N. T. p. 669; Beausobre, Hist, du Manichceisme, i, 23, 40, 404; ii, 129.) 
Cp. Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, ii, 12 ; and Lucan, x, 29. Von Bohlen states that the name 
India first appears among the Greeks in ^Eschylus, Supplic. 282. There the reference is 
clearly not to India proper, the words running : " I hear that the wandering Indians ride 
on pannier packed camels fleet as steeds, in their land bordering on the Ethiopians." 

4 Epist. 83, quoted by Mosheim. 

5 Catal. Scriptor. Ecclesiast. c. 36, cited by Mosheim. 



that the Hebrew translation of Matthew must have been used by 
Jews, decided that the delegates came from a Jewish-Christian 
colony, which he located in Arabia Felix, because he held that to 
have been the scene of Bartholomew's " Indian " labours. 1 It 
matters little which view we take here, so long as we recognize the 
absurdity of the view that the locality was India. Indeed, even if 
the " Indies" of Eusebius had meant India, the testimony is on the 
face of it a mere tradition. 

The same arguments, it need hardly be said, dispose of the 
testimony of Chrysostom, who unquestionably alluded to some of 
the many peoples of Western Asia or Africa commonly dubbed 
Indians. If further disproof of Dr. Lorinser's initial assumption be 
needed, it lies in the fact that even Tertullian, in his sufficiently 

eping catalogue of the nations that had embraced Christianity — 
a list which includes Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the people of 
" Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, and 
Pamphylia " — the whole Pentecostal series — does not say a word of 
India ;* and that Irenaeus in his allegation as to the spread of the 
faith does not do so either." In any case, neither Chrysostom nor 
Eusebius, nor yet Jerome, pretends that the "Indians" had a 
complete translation of the books of the New Testament ; and 
nothing less than a complete translation in an Indian tongue is 
wanted for Dr. Lorinser's argument, as we shall see when we 
examine his " parallel passages." He admits, in a piquant passage, 
that it is impossible to say in what dialect the translation was made, 

jther in one of those spoken by the people or in Sanskrit, then as 
now only known to the Brahmans. Dr. Lorinser observes that it 
is all one (gleichgiiltig) to him. No doubt ! 

'.j. An argument for the derivation of the teaching in the 
Bhagavat Gita from the New Testament has the advantage, to 
begin with, involved in the difficulty of fixing the time of the com- 

\ion of the Gita from either internal or external evidence. 

re can be no doubt that, like so many other Hindu writings, it 

formerly dated much too early. Ostensibly an episode in the 
great epic, fcl bharata, it stands out from the rest of that 

huge poem a-. :';cally theological treatise, cast in the form of 

a dialogue which is . ited as taking place between Krishna 

and the warrior Arjuna on the eve of a great battle. I may say at 

1 Commentaries on the Affair* of the ( ■■ 8, note (citing Tille- 

Tn Vit. Barthol. in Mem //■ * Eeelee.Ll, 60-1). In the original, pp. 206-7. Heealso 

Mardock't note I I Hittory, 2 Cent, parti c. i, ; Compare the 

admissions of v.. Quellen$ammlimo 1840, p. 110); and of Qieseler {Compendium, 

■/>, note*), who toiii i probably only wont to Yemen. 

8 Advertut Judaot, c. 7. Adv. Hterete*, c. jo. 


once that I cannot regard it as having been composed at the same 
time as the portion of the poem in which it is inserted. Mr. K. T. 
Telang, the able Hindu scholar who has translated it for the 
" Sacred Books of the East " series, 1 and who argues persuasively 
for its antiquity, confessedly holds "not without diffidence" — 
indeed, very doubtfully — to the view that it is a genuine "portion 
of the original Mahabharata." 2 Where he is diffident the rest of us 
must be disbelieving. There is much force in Mr. Telang's conten- 
tion that the Gita belongs to a period before that of the system- 
makers ; indeed, the flat contradiction, to which he alludes, ' between 
Krishna's declarations on the one hand that to him " none is hateful, 
none dear," 4 and on the other hand that a whole series of doers of 
good are " dear " to him — this even raises a doubt as to the 
homogeneity of the document. But it is one thing to reckon the 
Gita ancient, and another to regard it as a portion of the " original 
Mahabharata." It is not easily to be believed that a piece of 
writing in which Krishna is not only represented as the Supreme 
Deity, but pantheistically treated, can belong originally to the epic 
in which he is a heroic demigod. It must surely belong to the 
period of his Brahmanic acceptance. 

Where that period begins, however, it is still impossible to say 
with any approach to precision ; and, as Weber remarks, Dr. 
Lorinser's thesis is thus far unhampered by any effective objections 
from Hindu chronology. It must, however, stand criticism on its 
own merits, and we have seen how it breaks down in respect of the 
patristic testimony to the existence of an "Indian" mission, and an 
"Indian" translation of part of the New Testament, in the first 
Christian centuries. It is morally certain that no such translation 
existed, even of the gospels, not to speak of the entire canon, which 
Dr. Lorinser strangely seems to think is covered by his quotation 
from Chrysostom. His argument from history being thus anni- 
hilated, it remains to be seen whether he succeeds any better in 
his argument from resemblance. It is not difficult to show that, 
even if the Gita were composed within the Christian era, it really 
owes nothing to Christianity. 

The derivation of the Gita's teaching from the Christian 

1 Vol. viii, 1SS2. 

2 Introd. pp. 2, 5, 6. In the introduction to bis earlier translation of the Bhagavat Gita 
in blank verse (Bombay, 1S75), Mr. Telang took up a stronger position ; but even there he 
declared: "I own I find it quite impossible to satisfy myself that there are more than a 
very few facts in the history of Sanskrit literature which we are entitled to speak of as 

historically certain'" (p. vii). The earlier essay, however, contains a very able and 
complete refutation of Dr. Lorinser's arguments, well worthy the attention of those who 
are disposed for a further investigation of the subject. 

3 P. 12. ^Gita.ix, -22. 5 Id. xii. 



Scriptures Dr. Lorinser claims to prove by about one hundred 
parallel passages, in which Gita sentences are matched by texts 
selected from nearly all the New Testament books. He divides 
them into three classes : (l) passages in which, with differences of 
expression, the sense coincides ; (2) passages in which a charac- 
teristic expression of the New Testament appears with a different 
application ; and (3) passages in which expression and meaning 
coincide. The nature of these " coincidences " can be best set forth 
by a simple selection of about a score of them. I have made this 
quite impartially, taking the majority consecutively as they happen 
to stand at the heads of the sections, and picking out the remainder 
because of their comparative importance. It would be easy to 
make a selection which would put Dr. Lorinser's case in a much 
worse light : — 

Bhagavat Gita. 1 New Testament. 

{First Order.) 
The deluded man who, restraining I say unto you that every one that 

the organs of action, continues to think 
in his mind about objects of sense, is 
called a hypocrite, iii, 6. 

But those who carp at my opinion 
and do not act upon it, know them to 
be devoid of discrimination, deluded 
as regards all knowledge, and ruined. 
iii, 32. 

Every sense has its affections and 
its aversions towards its objects fixed. 
One should not become subject to 
them, for they are one's opponents, 
iii, 34. 

[Arjuna speaks] : Later is your 
[Krishna's] birth ; the birth of the 
sun is prior. How then shall I under- 
stand that you declared (this) first? 
[Krishna answers] : I have passed 
through many births, Arjuna ! and 
you also. I know them all, but you, 

terror of your foes, do not know 

them, iv, 4. 

I am born age after age, for the 
protection of the good, and for the 
destruction of evil-doers and the estab- 
ment of piety, iv, 8. 

looketh on a woman to lust after her 
hath committed adultery with her 
already in his heart. Matt, v, 28. 

A man that is heretical [after a first 
and second admonition] refuse ; know- 
ing that such a one is perverted, and 
sinneth, being self -condemned. Titus 
iii, 10-11. 

Let not sin therefore reign in your 
mortal body, that ye should obey the 
lusts thereof . Romans vi, 12. Because 
the mind of the flesh is enmity against 
God, etc. Id. viii, 7. 

The Jews therefore said unto him, 
Thou art not yet fifty years old, and 
hast thou seen Abraham ? John viii, 57. 

I know whence I came, and whither 
I go ; but ye [i.e., the Jews] know 
not whence I came, or whither I go. 
Id. 14. 

To this end have I been born, and to 
this end am I come into the world, that 
I should bear witness unto the truth. 
John xviii, 37. The devil sinneth 
from the beginning. 1 John iii, 8. 

1 I have followed throughout the prose translation of Mr. Telang ; and I have occasion- 
ally given in brackets parts of a passage elided by Dr. Lorinser as not bearing on his. 
point. The context clearly ought to be kept in view. 



He who is ignorant and devoid of 
faith, and whose self is full of mis- 
givings, is ruined, iv, 40. 

To me none is hateful, none dear, 
ix, 29. 

He that believeth [and is baptized] 
shall be saved ; but he that disbelieveth 
shall be condemned. Mark xvi, 16. 

There is no respect of persons with 
God. Rom. ii, 11. 

(Second Order. 

For should I at any time not engage 
without sloth in action [men would 
follow in my path from all sides, son 
of Pritha !] . If I did not perform 
actions, these worlds would be destroyed. 
I should be the cause of caste inter- 
minglings. I should be ruining these 
people, iii, 23-4. 

Even those men who always act on 
this opinion of mine full of faith, and 
without carping [" die lastern nicht " 
in Lorinser] are released from all 
actions, iii, 31. 

me the goal [" der Weg" in 

Lorinser 1 ] than which there is nothing 
higher, vii, 18. 


To the man of knowledge I am dear 
above all things, and he is dear to me. 
vii, 17. 

I am not manifest to all. vii, 26. 

It [i.e., divine knowledge] is to be 
apprehended directly, and is easy to 
practise, ix, 2. 

I am [the father of this universe, the 
mother, the creator, the grandsire, the 
thing to be known, the means of sancti- 
fication, the syllable Om ( = past, present, 
and future), the Rik, Saman, and Yajus 
also] the goal [the sustainer, the lord, 
the supervisor, the residence, theasylum, 
the friend] , the source and that in which 
it merges [the support, the receptacle, 
and the inexhaustible seed] . I cause 

My Father worketh even until now, 
and I work. John v, 17. [.4s against 
passage in brackets] : If any man would 
come after me, let him deny himself 
and take up his cross. Matt, xvi, 24. 

If a man keep my word [he shall 
never see death] . John viii, 51. 

that the word of God be not 

blasphemed. Titus ii, 5. [Compare 
the preceding sentences of the epistle. ~\ 

I am the way No one cometh 

unto the Father, but by me. John 
xiv, 6. 


He [that hath my commandments, 
and keepeth them, he it is that] loveth 

me and I will love him. John 

xiv, 21. 

No man hath seen God at any time. 
John i, 18. 

Whom no man hath seen, nor can 
see. 1 Tim. vi, 18. 

My yoke is easy, and my burden 
light. Matt, xi, 30. 

I am the way [and the truth, and 
the life ; no one cometh unto the 
Father but by me] . John xiv, 6. 

"I am the first and the last [and the 
Living One ; and I was dead, and 
behold I am alive for evermore, and I 
have the keys of death and of Hades] . 
Rev. i, 17-18. 

He maketh his sun to rise [on the 
evil and the good], and sendeth rain 

1 Dr. John Muir, than whom there is no higher authority in this country, rejected 
Dr. Lorinser's translation of "way" and anticipates Telang's : "Here, as in many other 
passages of the Indian writings, [the word] certainly signifies ' the place reached by going,' 
'resort,' 'refuge.'" Indian Antiquary, March, 1875 (vol. iv), p. 80. To the same effect, 
Professor Tiele, in Theolog. Tijdschr. 1877, p. 75, n. 


beat, and I send forth and stop showers, [on the just and the unjust] . Matt. 

[I am immortality, and also death ; and v, 45. 
I, O Arjuna ! am that which is and that 
which is not.] ix, 18, 19. 

[That devotee who worships me abid- [As the living Father sent me, and I 

ing in all beings, holding that all is live because of the Father ; so] he that 

one] , lives in me, however he may be eateth me, he also shall live because of 

living", vi, 30. me. John vi, 57. 

But those who worship me with I in them, and they in me [that 

devotion (dwell) in me, and I too in they may be perfected into one] . 

them, ix, 29. x John xvii, 23. 

I am the origin of all, and all moves For of him, and through him, and 

on through me. x, 8. unto him, are all things. Rom. xi, 36. 

I am the beginning, and the middle lam the first and the last.' 2 Rev. i, 17. 
and the end also of all beings, x, 20. 

The first comment that must occur to every instructed reader on 
perusing these and the other " parallels " advanced by Dr. Lorinser 
is that on the one hand the parallels are very frequently such as 
could be made by the dozen between bodies of literature which have 
unquestionably never been brought in contact, so strained and far- 
fetched are they ; and that on the other they are discounted by quite 
as striking parallels between New Testament texts and pre-Christian 
pagan writings. Take a few of the more notable of these latter 
parallels, in the order in which the New Testament passages occur 
above : — 

He who means to do an injury has already done it. SENECA, De Ira, i, 3. 

Though you may take care of her body, the [coerced wife's] mind is 
adulterous, nor can she be preserved, unless she is willing. OVID, Amor. 
iii, 4, 5. 

Not only is he who does evil bad, but also he who thinks to do evil. 
iELIAN, Var. Hist., xiv, 28. 

In every man there are two parts : the better and superior part, which 
rules, and the worse and inferior part, which serves, and the ruler is always 
to be preferred to the servant. PLATO, Laws, B. v (Jowett's tr. v, 298). 

[In B. iv of the Laws (Jowett, v, 288-9) is a long sentence declaring that 
the contemner of right conduct is " deserted by God " and in the end " is 
utterly destroyed, and his family and city with him."] 

The unruly passions of anger and desire are contrary and inimical to the 
reason. CICERO, Tusculan Questions, iv, 5. 

1 As to the passage, " They who devoutly worship me are in me, and I in them," Dr. Muir 
writes : " Tn the Rig Veda some passages occur which in part convey the same or a similar 
idea. Thus in ii, 11, 12, it is said : ' O Indra, we sages have been in thee '; and in x, 142, 1 ; 

. This worshipper, O Agni, hath been in thee : O son of strength, he hath no other kinship '; 

and in viii, 47, 8 : ' We, O Gods, are in you as if fighting in coats of mail ' And in viii, 81, 

32. the worshipper says to Indra, ' thou art ours, and we thine.' " (.Bid. Ant. as cited, p. 80.) 

2 Dr. Lorinser also brackets the Christian " I am the Alpha and the Omega " with the 
Gita's " I am A among the letters" (x, 33). But Mr. Telang points out (B. G. trans, in verse, 
Introd. p. Iv) that the Indian writer merely takes A as the principal letter. Note that the 
Deity is already "the first and the last" in Isaiah (so-called)— xli, 4 ; xliii, 10; xlviii, 12. 
Why should not the Brahmans have studied the prophets ? 


I [Cyrus] am persuaded I am born by divine providence to undertake this 
work. Herodotus, i, 126. 

The Muses whom Mnemosyne bare, to be a means of oblivion of 

ills, and a rest from cares. HESIOD, Theogony, 52-5. 

The Gods look with just eyes on mortals. OVID, Metamorph. xiii, 70. 

God is verily the saviour of all, and the producer of things in whatever way 
they happen in the world. PSEUD- ARISTOTLE, De Mundo, 6. 

Zeus, cause of all, doer of all What can be done by mortals without 

Zeus? ^SCHYLUS, Agam. 1461-5 (1484-8). 

All things are full of Jove ; he cherishes the earth ; my songs are his care. 
VIRGIL, Eclogues, iii, 60. 

The temperate man is the friend of God, for he is like to him. PLATO, 
haws, B. iv (Jowett's tr. v, 289). 

Not to every one doth Apollo manifest himself, but only to the good. 
CALLIMACHUS, Hymn to Apollo, 9. 

It is enough for God that he be worshipped and loved. SENECA, Epist. 
xlvii, 18. Cp. xcv, 50. 

God, seeing all things, himself unseen. PHILEMON, Frag. 

God, holding in his hand the beginning, middle, and end, of all that is. 
PLATO, Laios, B. iv. (Jowett, v, 288.) 

Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus shall be. Ancient Song, in PAUSANIAS, x, 12. 

God comes to men : nay, what is closer, he comes into them. SENECA, 
Epist. 73. 

God is within you. EPICTETUS, Dissert, i, 14, 14. 

Pythagoras thought that there was a soul mingling with and pervading all 
things. CICERO, De Natura Deorum, i, 11. 

Such parallels as these, I repeat, could be multiplied to any 
extent from the Greek and Latin classics alone ; while the Egyptian 
"Book of the Dead" furnishes many more. But is it worth while 
to heap up the disproof of a thesis so manifestly idle? On Dr. 
Lorinser's principle, Jesus and his followers were indebted to pagans 
for very much of their ethical teaching — as indeed the compilers of 
the gospels were unquestionably indebted for a good many of their 
theological ideas, not to speak of the narrative myths. But no great 
research or reflection is needed to make it clear that certain common- 
places of ethics as well as of theology are equally inevitable conclu- 
sions in all religious systems that rise above savagery. 1 Four 
hundred years before Jesus, Plato 2 declared that it was very difficult 

1 In Dr. John Muir's valuable little pamphlet, Beligious and Moral Sentiments freely 
translated from Indian Writers (published in Thomas Scott's series), will be found a 
number of extracts from the Mahabharata and other Sanskrit works, which, on the 
Christian theory, must have been borrowed from the Gospels. Thus in the epic (v, 1270) 

we have: "The Gods regard with delight the man who when struck does not strike 

again." If this be Christian (it is at least as old as Plato : see the Gorgias) whence came 
this: "The good, when they promote the welfare of others, expect no reciprocity"? (iii, 
16796). It is plainly as native to the Indian poet as is the "Golden Rule," thus stated: 
"Let no man do to another that which would be repugnant to himself ; this is the sum of 
righteousness; the rest is according tO ( inclination." But most Christians are kept care- 
fully in ignorance of the fact that the " Golden Rule " is common to all literatures, and was 
an ancient saw in China long before the Christian era. 

2 Latvs, v. 


for the rich to be good : does anyone believe that any thoughtful 
Jew needed Plato's help to reach the same notion ? Nay, does any- 
one even doubt that such a close coincidence as the comparison of 
the human soul to a team of horses in the Katha Upanishad and 
Plato's Phaedrus, pointed out to Dr. Lorinser by Professor Windisch, 1 
might be quite independent of borrowing ? 

If all this were not clear enough a priori, it is sufficiently obvious 
from the context of most of the passages quoted from the Gita, as 
well as from the general drift of its exposition, that the Hindu 
system is immeasurably removed from the Christian in its whole 
theosophical inspiration. We are asked to believe that Brahmans 
expounding a highly developed pantheism went assiduously to the 
(unattainable) New Testament for the wording of a number of their 
propositions, pantheistic and other, while assimilating absolutely 
nothing of distinctively Christian doctrine ; choosing to borrow 
from the Christians their expressions of doctrines which had been in 
the world for centuries, including some which lay at the root of 
Buddhism — as that of the religious yoke being easy — though utterly 
rejecting the Christian doctrine of atonement and blood sacrifice 
and the Christian claim as a whole. Such a position is possible 
only to a mesmerized believer. 2 Even were Brahmanic India in 
doctrinal communication with Christendom at the time in question, 
which we have seen it was not, it lies on the face of the case that 
the Brahmanic theosophy was already elaborated out of all com- 
parison with the Christian. It had reached systematic (even if 
inconsistent) pantheism while Christianity was but vaguely absorbent 
of the pantheism around it. The law of religious development in 
this regard is simple. A crude and naif system, like the Christism 
of the second gospel and the earlier form of the first, borrows 
inevitably from the more highly evolved systems with which it 
comes socially in contact, absorbing myth and mystery and dogma 
till it becomes as sophisticated as they. It then becomes capable 
in turn of dominating primitive systems, as Christianity supplanted 
those of northern Europe. But not even at the height of its 
influence, much less in the second century, was Christianity capable 
of dominating Hindu Brahmanism, with its ingrained pantheism, 
and its mass of myth and ritual, sanctioned in whole or in part by 
rote-learnt lore of the most venerable antiquity. Be the Gita pre- 
Christian or post-Christian, it is unmixedly Hindu. 

1 Cited by Dr. Muir in Ind. Ant. as last cited, p. 78. 

2 It appears from Dr. Lorinser's notes (p. 82) that he thinks the author of the Gita may 
have profited by a study of the Christian fathers, as Clemens Alexandrinus and Athena- 
goras. He further implies that the Hindu had read the book of Wisdom in the Septuagint I 


4. When it is thus seen that all the arguments to prove imitation 
of the Gospels in the Bhagavat Gita are baseless, it is hardly 
necessary to deal at any length with Weber's favourite general 
argument as to the necessary derivation of the doctrines of bhakti 
and sraddhd from Christianity. The very proposition betrays some 
of the " judicial blindness " laboured under by Dr. Lorinser. It has 
never occurred to either theorist to ask how the doctrine of salvation 
by faith came to be developed in Christism, or whether the same 
religious tendencies could not give rise to the same phenomenon in 
similar social conditions elsewhere. I cannot burden this already 
over-lengthy treatise with an examination of the development of the 
Christian doctrine of faith from the Judaic germs. It must suffice 
to say that the principle is already clearly indicated in the prophets ; * 
that faith in divine protection is expressed in the early documents of 
other Eastern systems ; and that the tendency to believe in the all- 
sufficiency of devotion, and the needlessness of personal merit, is 
noted by Plato (to name no other), and is in some degree really an 
inevitable phase of all systems at some stages. It found special 
development under Christism in a decaying society, in which the 
spirit of subjection had eaten away the better part of all self-reliance ; 
and just such a state of things can be seen to have existed in many 
parts of India from the earliest historic times. It would be small 
credit to Christianity if it were responsible for the introduction into. 
India of a doctrine so profoundly immoral in principle, so demoraliz- 
ing in practice ; but, as it happens, the historic facts discountenance 
the hypothesis. For though we cannot trace all the stages by which 
the doctrine of faith reached its full development, we do know that 
the germs of it lie in the Veda. Take first the testimony of Dr. 
John Muir : — 

"Dr. Lorinser considers (p. 56) that two Sanskrit words denoting faithful 
and reverential religious devotion (sraddhd and bhakti), which often occur 
in the Bhagavat Gita, do not convey original Indian conceptions, but are 
borrowed from Christianity. This may or may not be true of bhakti ; but 
sraddhd (together with its cognates, participial and verbal) is found even in 
the hymns of the Rig Veda in the sense of belief in the existence and action 
of a deity, at least, if not also of devotion to his service. In pp. 103 ff. of 
the fifth volume of my Original Sanskrit Texts a number of passages are 
cited and translated in which the word occurs, together with a great variety 
of other expressions in which the worshipper's trust in, and affectionate 
regard for, the God Indra are indicated. He is called a friend and brother ; 
his friendship and guidance are said to be sweet ; he is spoken of as a father 

1 Micah iii, 11; Isa. xxvi, 3; 1, 7-10; Jer. vii, 14; Nahuro i, 7; Zeph. iii, 12; Psalms, 


and the most fatherly of fathers, and as being both a father and a mother ; 
he is the helper of the poor, and has a love for mortals." 1 

These remarks are endorsed by Mr. Telang, who cites other Vedie 
passages ; 2 and again by Tiele : — 

" The opinion that not only did Christian legends find an entry among 
the Indian sects of later times, but that even peculiarly Christian ideas 
exercised an influence on their dogmatics or philosophy, that is to say, that 
the Hindus acquired from the Christians their high veneration for piety or 
devotion, bhakti, and faith, sraddhd — as is contended by Weber {Indisclie 
Studien, 1850; i, 423), and after him by Neve (Des tUments etrangers du 
viytlie et du culte de Krichna, Paris, 1876, p. 35) — seems to me unjustified. 
Already in the Rig Veda there is frequent mention of faith (sraddhd) in the 
same sense as is given to that word later ; and although we cannot speak 
actually of bhakti, which there as yet only means ' division ' or ' apportion- 
ment,' yet this has already in very old sources the sense of ' consecration' 
(toewijding), 'fidelity' (tromv), 'love resting on belief (op geloof rustende 
Uefde)." 8 

Similarly Professor Richard Garbe, who accepts uncritically 
enough Weber's theorem of the derivation of parts of the Krishna 
myth from the Gospels, and has no hesitation about pronouncing 
Krishna a historical personage, " cannot adopt the opinion that the 
bhakti was transplanted from a foreign land into the exceedingly 
fertile soil of Indian thought, because its earliest appearance is in a 

time for which Christian influences in India have not yet been 

demonstrated." 4 Take, finally, the verdict of Professor Max Miiller 
— in this connection certainly weighty. Noting that the principle 
of love and intimacy with the Gods is found in the very earliest 
portions of the Rig Veda, he cites from the Svetasoatara Upanishad 5 
a pantheistic passage which concludes : — " If these truths have been 
told to a high-minded man, who feels the highest devotion {bhakti) 
for God, and as for God so for his Guru, then they will shine forth, 
then will they shine forth indeed." He adds : — 

" Here then we have in the Upanishads the idea of bhakti or devotion 
clearly pronounced ; and as no one has yet ventured to put the date of the 
Svetasoatara Upanishad later than the beginning of our era, it is clearly 
impossible to admit here the idea of an early Christian influence." 

Further, the Professor observes that, " even if chronologically 
Christian influences were possible" at the date of the Gita, "there 
is no necessity for admitting them." "It is strange that these 

1 Indian Antiquary, iv, 81. Also in Dr. Muir's pamphlet Beligious and Moral Senti- 
ments, as cited, p. vi. 

2 Trans, of B. G. in verse, introd. p. lxxxii. 

:; Art. Christ us en Krishna, in Theologische Tijdschrift, 1877, p. 66. 

4 The Philosophy of Ancient India, Eng. trans. 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1899), pp. 84-85. 

5 Mtiller's trans, in Sacred Books of the East, xv, 260. 
G Natural Religion, p. 99. 


scholars should not see that what is natural in one country is 
natural in another also." 1 

For the rest, we have already seen that the idea of the God 
entering into his worshippers existed in the Veda (as it notoriously 
did among the ancient Greeks and has done among primitives 
everywhere), though that too was held by Dr. Lorinser to be of 
Christian derivation ; and the one rebuttal reinforces the other. 
We have also seen how completely Weber was mistaken as to the 
opinion of Wilson. It only remains to say that in the rejection of 
Weber's own theory we are fully countenanced by M. Barth ; 2 and 
that Dr. Lorinser's special proposition is scouted by M. Senart." 

§ 20. The "White Island." 

There is only one more proposition as to the influence of Chris- 
tianity on Krishnaism that calls for our attention. Among the 
infirm theses so long cherished by Professor Weber, not the least 
paternally favoured is his interpretation of a certain mythic tale in 
the Mahabharata, 4 to the effect that once upon a time Narada, and 
before him other mythic personages, had visited the Svetadvipa, or 
" White Island," beyond the " Sea of Milk "; had there found a 
race of perfect men, who worshipped the One God ; and had there 
received the knowledge of that God from a supernatural voice. 
This, the only record that can be pretended to look like a Hindu 
mention of the importation of Christianity, is fastened upon by 
Weber and others as a piece of genuine history ; and the White 
Island" (which might also mean the "island of the w T hite ones ") is 
assumed to be Alexandria, for no other reason than that Alexandria 
seems the likeliest place whence the knowledge of Christianity could 
come. 5 Lassen, who followed Weber in assuming that the legend 
was a historic testimony, surmised on the other hand that Svetadvipa 
would be Parthia, " because the tradition that the Apostle Thomas 
preached the Gospel in that country is an old one." On the other 
hand, however, he thought it just possible that there had been an 
apostolic mission to India, though he admitted that it was not 
without weighty reasons that many ecclesiastical historians held 

1 Id. p. 97. 2 Religions of India, pp. 218-220, 223. 

3 Essai, pp. 342-3.91. 4 xii, 12702, ff. 

5 Weber, Ueber die Erislmajanmdshtami, pp. 318-321 ; Indische Stndien, i,400; Ivdische 
Streifen, ii, 21; Lorinser, as cited. Weber's view is shared by the French Catholic 
scholar, Neve, who says " It is even certain, at least highly probable, that the White Island 

is Alexandria " {Des elements etrangers du mytlxe et du culte de Krichna, Paris, 1876, 

p. 24, quoted bv Tiele, TJieolog. Tijdschr. as cited, p. 70). I have not been able to meet 
with M. Neve's book, which is not in the British Museum. It does not appear, however,, 
to have added anything to the German arguments. 


the " India " of Bartholomew and Pantaenus to be Yemen. We are 
thus left to believe, if we choose, that Christianity was very early 
imported by Christians into India, and yet that Brahmans went 
elsewhere to learn it : so loosely can a great scholar speculate. It 
is worth noting only as a further sample of the same laxity that 
Lassen thought the hypothesis about Svetadvipa was put on firm 
ground (ei?ies festen Grundcs) by citing the fact that in the late 
Kurma Purana there is a legend about Siva appearing in the beginning 
of the Kali Yuga or Evil Age to teach the " Yoga " system on the 
Himalayas, and having four scholars, " White," " White horse," 
"White hair," and "White blood." In the Mahabharata legend 
the Yoga is represented as the source of the true knowledge ; hence 
it follows that both stories refer to the same thing, which is 
Christianity I 1 

It will readily be believed that these assumptions find small 
favour with later investigators. Telang in India, Tiele in Holland, 
Senart and Barth in France, all reject them. Mr. Telang's criticism 
is especially destructive : — 

" I cannot see the flimsiest possible ground for identifying the 
Svetadvip of the legend with Alexandria, or Asia Minor, or the 
British Isles [this has been done by Colonel Wilford, Asiatic 
Researches, xi] , or any other country or region in this world. The 
Dvip is in the first place stated to lie to the north of the Kshirasa- 
mudra ; and to the north-west of Mount Meru, and above it by 
thirty-two thousand yojans. I should like to know what geography 
has any notion of the quarter of this earth where we are to look 
for the Sea of Milk and the Mount of Gold. Consider next the 
description of the wonderful people inhabiting this wonderful Dvip. 
[Sanskrit quoted.] It will be news to the world that there were in 
Alexandria or elsewhere a whole people without any organs of sense, 
who ate nothing, and who entered the sun, whatever that may 
mean ! Remember, too, that the instruction which Narad receives 
in this wonderful land is not received from its inhabitants, but from 
Bhagavan, from God himself. Nor let it be forgotten that the 
doctrines which the deity there announces to Narad cannot be shown 
to have any connection with Christianity. On the contrary, I think 
that it must be at once admitted that the whole of the prelection 
addressed to Narad bears on its face its essentially Indian character, 
in the reference to the three qualities, to the twenty-five primal 
principles, to the description of final emancipation as absorption or 
entrance into the Divinity, and various other matters of the like 
character. Against all this what have we to consider ? Why, nothing 
more than the description of the inhabitants as white, and as ekdnta, 

1 Indisclie Alterthumskunde, ii (1849), 1099-1101. 


which, Professor Weber thinks, means monotheists (Sed qucere). It 
appears to me that the story is a mere work of the imagination." 1 

The details as to the supernatural character of the inhabitants 
of the White Island, be it observed, are ignored by both Weber and 
Lassen, who pursue the Evemeristic method. Tiele emphatically 
endorses Telang : — 

" With all respect for such men as Lassen and Weber, I can 
hardly conceive of such a species of historical criticism. All the 
places and persons in the legend are purely mythological : Narada 
can as little as his predecessors be reckoned a historical personage." 
[Quotes Telang.] " We are here in sheer mythology. Svetadvipa 
is a land of fable, a paradise, a dwelling of the sun, such as we meet 
with in so many religious systems ; and the white inhabitants, 
exalted above personal needs, are spirits of light. Narada receives 
there a monotheistic revelation, not from the inhabitants, but from 
the supreme deity himself; but one only needs to glance at the 
words in which it is conveyed to perceive its Indian character. 
And whencesoever the poet may have derived this monotheism, at 
least the legend says nothing as to its being derived from Alexandria 
or any other religious centre." 2 

Equally explicit is the decision of M. Senart : — 

" It is certain that all the constituent elements of this story are 
either clearly mythological or, in the speculative parts, of very 
ancient origin : both belong to India, apart from any Christian 
influence. It is another matter to inquire if the use made of the 
materials, the manner of their application (the Katha Upanishad, 
i, sq. shows us, for instance, Nasiketas going to the world of Yama 
to seek philosophical instruction), betrays a Western influence, and 
preserves a vague memory of borrowings made from Christian 
doctrines. The question cannot be definitively handled save on 
positive dates, which we do not possess : inductions are extremely 
perilous. It has been sought to show (Muir, Sanskrit Texts, iv, 
248, sq) that the Pandavas were the founders of the cult of Vishnu- 
Krishna. Who would venture to see in these ' white heroes,' whom 
Lassen holds on the other hand to be new comers from the West 
(Ind. Alt. i, 800, sq.), the representatives of a Christian influence on 
the religious ideas of India?" 3 

And M. Barth in turn, even while admitting that Brahmans may 
have early " visited the Churches of the East," and that there were 
probably Christian Churches in India "before the redaction of the 
Mahabharata was quite finished," regards the Svetadvipa legend as 
a "purely fanciful relation." 4 

1 Bhagavat Gita trans, into Ena. blank verse. Introd. pp. xsxiv-v. 

2 Theolog. Tijdschr. art. cited, p. 70. 

3 Essai, p. 342, n. 4 Belig. of India, p. 221. 


It is needless, for the rest, to go into the question of the manner 
of the "introduction" of the monotheistic idea into India, or into 
the point raised by Weber 1 as to the commemoration of the Milk 
Sea and the White Island, and the veneration of Narada, in the 
Krishnaite ritual. The latter circumstance plainly proves nothing 
whatever for his case, though he professes to be placed beyond 
doubt by it ; and the idea that Brahmans could derive the idea of 
monotheism from the Christians of Alexandria, after Athanasius, is 
on its merits nothing short of grotesque. In other connections, 
moreover, Weber assumes the Hindus to have been influenced by 
Greek thought at and after the conquest of Alexander : why then 
should they not have had the idea from Greek philosophy — not to 
speak of Persia or Egypt — before the Christian era? Even Lassen, 
while holding the Christian theory of Svetadvipa, avowed that no 
practical influence on Indian religion could justly be attributed to 
the Christian missionaries in the early centuries, and rejected the 
view that the Hindus derived monotheism from Christianity. 2 

§ 21. The Crucifixion Myth. 

While the Christian claim seems thus to collapse at all points, 
there incidentally arises, out of an equally mistaken countervailing 
claim, a problem of which I cannot pretend to offer a solution, but 
which calls for mention here. A strenuous freethinker of the early 
part of last century, Godfrey Higgins, a scholar whose energy and 
learning too often missed their right fruition just because his work 
was a desperate revolt against a whole world of pious obscurantism, 
unwittingly put rationalists on a false scent by adopting the view 
that Krishna had in an ancient legend been crucified, and that it 
was the missionaries who had contrived to withhold the fact from 
general European knowledge. 3 His assumption rested mainly on an 
oversight of the archasologist Moor, 4 who in collecting Hindu God- 
images had a Christian crucifix presented to him as a native 
" Wittoba" — a late minor Avatar commonly represented as pierced 
in one foot. Krishna is indeed represented in the Puranic legend as 
being slain by an arrow 5 which pierced his foot, here comparing 
curiously with the solar Achilles of Hellenic mythology ; but he is 
not crucified ; and Moor later admitted that the figure in question 
was Christian. It is not at all certain, however, that a crucifixion 

1 Ueber die Krishna j, as last cited. 2 Indische Alterthumskimde. ii., 1102-3-5-9. 

3 Anacalypsis, 1836, i, 144-6 (ch. ii). 4 Hindu Pantheon, pp. 416-20, and pi. 98. 

5 In the Mahabharata and the Vishnu Purana the slayer is the hunter Jara (=" old age," 
"decay"). In the Bhagavat Purana the slayer is the forester Bhil. In both cases, the 
slaying is unintentional but predestined. 


myth did not anciently nourish in Asia, as we know one did in 
pre-Christian Mexico. The later missionaries no doubt have 
suppressed what they conveniently could ; and it is far from certain 
that we yet know all the relevant modern facts. As long ago as 
1626, the Portuguese Jesuit Andrade, in his letters from Tibet to the 
General of his Order, testifies to the existence of a crucifixion myth 
in that country. They believe, he tells, in the triune God, but give 
him absurdly wrong names ; and 

" They agree with, us in saying that Christ" [i.e., their Second Person, 
known as "the great book"] "died for the saving of the human race; but 
they do not know the manner of his death, knowing little or nothing of the 
holy cross, holding only that he died shedding his blood, which flowed from 
his veins on account of the nails with which he was put to death. It is very 
true that in their book the cross is represented, with a triangle in the 
middle, and certain mystic letters which they cannot explain." 

Andrade further testifies that there were three or four goldsmiths 
of the King of Tibet, natives of other countries, to whom he gave 
money to make a cross ; and they told him that in their country, 
two months' journey off, there were many such crosses as his, some 
of wood, others of metals. These were usually in the churches, but 
on five days in the year they were put on the public roads, when all 
the people worshipped them, strewing flowers and lighting lamps 
before them; "which crosses in their language they call Iandar." 1 

This evidence is remarkably corroborated in 1772 by the Jesuit 
Giorgi, who, in the very act of maintaining that all Krishnaism was 
a perversion of Christianity, declares on his own knowledge of Tibet 
that in Nepal it was customary in the month of August to raise in 
honour of the God Indra cruces amictas abrotono, crosses wreathed 
with abrotonus, and to represent him as crucified, and bearing the 
•sign Telech on forehead, hands, and feet. He appends two woodcuts. 
One is a very singular representation of a crucifix, in which the 
cross seems wholly covered with leaves, and only the head, hands, 
and feet of the crucified one appear, the hands and feet as if pierced 
with nails, the forehead bearing a rnark. In the other, only the 
upper part of the deity's body is seen, with the arms extended, the 
hands pierced, the forehead marked, but without any cross. 2 
Godfrey Higgins reproduced and commented on those pictures, but 
I find no discussion of the matter in recent writers, though it 
appears that the Nepalese usage in question still flourishes. Dr. 

1 Histoire de ce qui c'est passe av Boyavme dv Tibet, trad, d'ltalien en Francois, Paris, 
1629, pp. 45-6, 49-50, 51. Cp. p. 84. Andrade will be found cited by M. V. La Croze, Hist, 
du Christ, des Indes, La Haye, 1724, p. 514. La Croze has a theory of Nestorian influences. 

2 Aluhabetum Thibetanum, Eomae. 1772, p. 203. 


H. A. Oldfield states that in the Indra festival in August- September 
at the present time " figures of Indra, with outstretched arms, are 
erected all about the city" 1 — i.e., Kathmandu — but he gives no 
further details. Weber would seem to have entirely overlooked the 
matter, since he makes no allusion to it. The prima facie inference 
is that we have here a really ancient and extra-Brahmanical 
development of the Indra cult ; since it is hard to conceive how any 
Christian suggestion should be grafted on that worship in particular, 
at a time when it had been generally superseded by the cult of 
Krishna. And there is no suggestion that any Christian doctrine 
connects with the usage described. When we note that the Persian 
Sun-God Mithra is imaged in the Zendavesta " with arms stretched 
out towards immortality," 2 and that the old Persian and Egyptian 
symbols seem to explain this by a figure of the sun or the God with 
outstretched wings — " the sun of righteousness with healing in its 
wings" — it is seen to be perfectly possible that not merely the cross- 
symbol, which is universal, but a crucifixion myth, should have 
flourished in ancient India. 

This, however, goes for nothing as regards Krishnaism, though 
Krishna was the supplanter of Indra. The only suggestions of the 
cross in Krishnaism apart from its appearance in late sculpture or 
pictorial art are in the curious legend 3 that the God was buried at 
the meeting point of three rivers — which would form a cross — and 
in the story of Yasoda binding the child Krishna to a tree, or to two 
trees. The trees opened, and there appeared two Brahmans — a tale 
which the indignant Giorgi held to be a perversion of the crucifixion 
of Christ between two thieves. 4 The story given by Wilford 5 of the 
holy Brahman Mandavya, who was crucified among thieves in the 
Deccan, and afterwards named Sulastha, or " cross-borne," is stated 
by the narrator to be told at great length in the " Sayadrichandra, a 
section of the Scanda Purana," and to be given briefly in the 
Mahabharata and alluded to in the Bhagavat Purana " and its 
commentary "; but as the matter is never mentioned by Weber or 
other later Sanskritists it is presumably one of the frauds practised 
on Wilford by his pandits. 6 The Christian crucifixion story falls to 
be studied in other lights, one of which is indicated above. 

i Sketches from Nepal, 1880, ii, 314. 2 Mihir Yasht, 31. 

3 Balfour's Ind. Cycl. art. Krishna. 

4 Alphab. Thib. p. 253. Giorgi held that the detail of Krishna's commending the care 
of his 1,600 wives to Arjuna was a fiction based on the records of the multitude of women 
who followed Christ from Galilee ! (p. 259). 5 Asiatic Researches, x, 69. 

6 On this see Professor Max Miiller's article "On False Analogies in Comparative 
Theology," in the Contemporary Review of April, 1870, reprinted with his Introduction to 
the Science of Religion, 1st ed. 1873. I am not aware that there has been any detailed dis- 
crimination of the genuine and the spurious in Wilford's compilations. 


Scientific criticism, finally, cannot found on the opinion of Wilson 
(who is so often cited to other purpose by Weber) to the effect that 
Gnostic Christian doctrines were borrowed from Hinduism in the 
second century. 1 That there was then " an active communication 
between India and the Red Sea " is indeed certain ; and it is arguable 
that Christism borrowed from Buddhism ; but the testimony of 
Epiphanius, 2 on which Wilson founds, is clearly worthless, were it 
only because he uses the term " India " at random, like so many 
other ancient writers. It is impossible to say what is the force of 
the reference of Juvenal 8 to the " hired Indian, skilled as to the 
earth and the stars"; and though there is no great reason to doubt 
that India was visited by Apollonius of Tyana, and no uncertainty, 
for instance, as to the embassies sant by Porus to Augustus, and by 
the king of " Taprobane " to Claudius, 4 it is one thing to be con- 
vinced of the communication, and another to know what were the 
results. No theory of influence in either direction can be founded 
on such transient contacts. 

§ 22. Summary. 

It may be convenient to sum up concisely the results, positive 
and negative, of the foregoing investigation. They may be roughly 
classed under these two heads. On the one hand, 

1. The cult of Krishna is proved by documentary evidence to 
have flourished in India before the Christian era, though it has 
developed somewhat and gained much ground since. 

2. In its pre-Christian form it presumptively, if not certainly, 
contained some of the myth-elements which have been claimed as 
borrowings from Christianity — such as the myth of Kansa ; and 
that myth was probably made the subject of dramatic represen- 

3. Other leading elements in the myth — such as the upbringing 
of the God among herdsmen and herdswomen — are found long 
before Christianity in the solar legend which attached to Cyrus ; 
while this myth and the story of the God's birth are found strikingly 
paralleled in the pre-Christian mythology of Greece and Egypt. 
There is thus an overwhelming presumption in favour of the view 
that these myth-elements were Hindu property long before our 

1 Trans, of Vishnu Purdna, Introd. p. viii. 

2 Adversus Manichceos, i {Hcereses, xlvi, sive lxvi). 3 Sat. vi, 585. 

4 Strabo, xv, 1, 74 ; Pliny, Hist. Nat. vi, 24 (22). It is worth noting that Pliny in this 
chapter says of the people of Taprobane (doubtless Ceylon) that " Hercules is the deity 
they worship." This confirms our previous argument as to the antiquity of the hero-God 


4. The fact that Krishna is in the Vedas a daemon is rightly to 
be taken as a proof of the antiquity of his cult. Its mythology 
points clearly to an extra-Brahmanic origin, though it includes 
myth-motives which closely coincide with Vedic myth-motives, 
notably those connected with Agni. The attribute of blackness in 
a beloved deity, too, is a mark of ancient derivation, remarkably 
paralleled in the case of the Egyptian Osiris, to whom also was 
attributed a daemonic origin. The same attribute is bound up with 
the conception of the God as a " hiding one," which is common to 
the oldest mythologies. 

5. Ritual is far more often the basis of myth than the converse ; 
and the Krishnaite Birth-ritual in itself raises a presumption in 
favour of the antiquity of the cult. 

6. The leading elements in the Krishna myth are inexplicable 
save on the view that the cultus is ancient. If it were of late and 
Brahmanic origin, it could not conceivably have taken in the legend 
of the upbringing among herdsmen. 

7. The ethical teaching bound up with Krishnaism in the 
Bhagavat Gita is a development on distinctly Hindu lines of Vedic 
ideas, and is no more derived from the New Testament than it is 
from the literature of Greece and Rome. 

8. The close coincidences in the legends of Krishna and Buddha 
are to be explained in terms of borrowing by the latter from the 
former, and not vice versa. 

In fine, we are led to the constructive position that Krishna is 
an ancient extra-Brahmanic Indian deity, in his earliest phase 
apparently non- Aryan, who was nevertheless worshipped by Aryan- 
speakers long before our era, and, either before or after his adoption 
by the Brahmans, or more probably in both stages, was connected 
with myths which are enshrined in the Vedas. He acquired some 
of the leading qualities of Agni, and supplanted Indra, whose ancient 
prestige he acquired. All of which positively-ascertained facts and 
fully-justified conclusions are in violent conflict with the hypothesis 
that Krishnaism borrowed mythological and theological matter from 

On the other hand, 

1. Such phenomena as the Birth-Festival ritual and the pictorial 
representation of the babe Krishna as suckled by his mother cannot 
reasonably be held to be borrowed from the Christians, any more 
than the myths positively proved to be pre-Christian. On the 
contrary, since the Christian Virgin-myth and Virgin-and-Child 
worship are certainly of pre-Christian origin, and of comparatively 


late Christian acceptance, and since the Virgin-myth was associated 
with Buddhism even for Westerns in the time of Jerome, the 
adoration of a Suckling-God is to be presumed pre-Christian in 
India (which had a Babe-God in Agni in the Veda) as it was in 
Egypt ; and it even becomes conceivable that certain parts of the 
Christian Birth-legend are directly or indirectly derived from 
Krishnaism, though the source was more probably intermediate 
between India and the Mediterranean. It is an extravagance to 
suppose the converse. 

2. It is equally extravagant to suppose that such a usage as the 
Krishnaite "name-giving" was borrowed from the short-lived usage 
of the Church of Alexandria in the matter of combining the Nativity 
and Epiphany. A similar usage prevailed in the pre-Christian cult 
of Herakles, and was presumably widespread. 

3. Nor can we without defying all probability suppose that such 
motives as the " ox-and-ass," the " manger," the "tax-paying," and 
the ' Christophoros," were borrowed by the Hindus from Chris- 
tianity, which itself unquestionably borrowed the first two and the 
last from Paganism. The more plausible surmise is rather that the 
third was borrowed from India ; and the necessary assumption, in 
the present state of our knowledge, is that the others also were 
ancient in India, whether or not any of them thence reached 
Christism in its absorbent stage. It is further possible that 
the introduction of shepherds into the Christian Birth-legend 
in the late third Gospel was suggested by knowledge of the 
Krishna legend, though here again an intermediate source is 
more likely. The converse hypothesis has been shown to be 

4. The myth of the Massacre of the Innocents is the more to 
be regarded as pre-Christian in India because it connects naturally 
with the motive of the attempted slaying of the God-child, and is 
already found in Semitic mythology in the story of Moses, which is 
minutely paralleled in one particular in the Egyptian myth of the 
concealment of Horus in the floating island, 1 and related in others 
to the universal myth of the attempted slaying of the divine child. 
The natural presumption is that the Hindu massacre of the innocents 
is as old as the Kansa myth : the onus of disproof lies with those 
who allege borrowing from the Gospels. 

5. The resemblances between certain Krishnaite and Christian 
miracles, in the same way, cannot be set down to Hindu borrowing 

1 Herodotus, ii, 156. 


from Christism when so many of the parallel myths 1 are certainly 
not so borrowed, and so many more presumably in the same case. 
For the rest, some of the parallels alleged on the Christian side are 
absurdly far-fetched, and bracketed with etymological arguments 
which are beneath serious notice. 

6. The lateness of the Puranic stories in literary form is no 
argument against their antiquity. Scholars are agreed that late 
documents often preserve extremely old myth-material. 2 

Christianity so-called, in short, we find to be wholly manufac- 
tured from pre-existent material within historic times : Krishnaism 
we have seen to have had a pre-historic existence. Thus every 
claim made in this connection by Christians recoils more or less 
forcibly on their own creed. 

1 It need hardly be explained that not a tithe of the mythical stories connected with 
Krishna have been mentioned above. They are extremely numerous, and are all either 
explicable in terms of the sun-myth or mere poetic adornments of the general legend. 

2 Compare Mr. Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. i, 291. 




If the foregoing pages in any degree effect their purpose, they have 
shown that a number of data in the Christian gospels, both 
miraculous and non-miraculous, held by Christians to be historical, 
and held even by some Naturalists to be either historical or at least 
accretions round the life and doctrine of a remarkable religious 
teacher and creed-founder, are really mere adaptations from myths 
of much greater antiquity ; and that accordingly the alleged or 
inferred personality of the Founder is under suspicion of being as 
mythical as that of the demi-gods of older lore. It is not here 
undertaken to offer a complete demonstration of the truth of that 
surmise ; but our survey would be unduly imperfect if the problem 
were not stated and to some extent dealt with. Broadly, the 
contention is that when every salient item in the legend of the 
Gospel Jesus turns out to be more or less clearly mythical, the 
matter of doctrine equally so with the matter of action, there is 
simply nothing left which can entitle anyone to a belief in any 
tangible personality behind the name. 

Such a view, as scholars are aware, is not new in the history of 
criticism, though the grounds for it may be so. In the second 
century, if not in the first, the " Docetae " had come to conceive of 
the Founder as a kind of supernatural phantom, which only 
" seemed " to suffer on the cross ; and many Gnostics had all along 
regarded him as an abstraction. One or other view recurs in 
medieval heresy from time to time. A " Docetic " view of Jesus 
was professed by the secret society of clerics and others which was 
broken up at Orleans about 1022 ; and in England as elsewhere, in 
the sixteenth century, sectaries are found taking highly mystical 
views of the Founder's personality. In the eighteenth century, 
again, Voltaire 1 tells of disciples of Bolingbroke who on grounds of 
historical criticism denied the historicity of Jesus ; and in the 

1 Dieu et les Homme s, ch. 39. 



period of the French Revolution we have not only the works of 
Volney 1 and Dupuis,' 2 reducing the gospel biography to a set of 
astronomical myths, but the anonymous German work mentioned 
by Strauss 3 as reducing it to an ideal which had a prior existence 
in the Jewish mind, though admitting divergences. 

The theses of Dupuis and Volney, which, though containing 
many important mythological clues, outran the problem and ignored 
some of the most obviously necessary processes of historical analysis, 
rather encouraged than checked the orthodox reaction ; and not till 
Bruno Bauer, reaching anew the conviction of the unhistorical 
nature of the gospel narratives, set forth the theory of a process of 
myth-construction by the consciousness of the early Christian 
community, was the "mythical theory" put in currency among 
special students. But Bauer, too, followed an unhistorical method ; 
and even the notably original work of Kulischer, Das Leben Jesu 
eine Sage von dem Schicksale und Erlebnissen des Bodenfrucht, 
insbesondere der sogenannten palastinischen Erstlingsgarbe, die am 
Passahfeste im Tempel dargebracht wurde (Leipzig, 1876), " setting 
forth an early form of the conception of the Vegetation-God, unduly 
ignores the complexity of the historical problem. It is only after a 
process of all-round induction, involving an extension of the mytho- 
logical analysis of Strauss and of the documentary analysis which 
he omitted to make, as well as a study of the new anthropological 
materials of the past half-century, that we can claim to have an 
adequate scientific basis for a definite rejection of the Christian 
narrative as a whole. But that claim is now, in the opinion of its 
supporters, irrefutable. Though in the meantime Christian scholar- 
ship itself has largely receded from a supernaturalist to a quasi- 
naturalist position as to the historicity of Jesus, and even professes 
a new confidence on its new ground, the radically negative view 
rapidly gains ground. 

I am well aware that it will still be commonly considered, as it 
was by Renan 5 in his youth, an extravagant position. When in my 
youth I first heard it put, I so considered it, though I already held 
the naturalist view ; and my later acquiescence has been the result 

1 Les Ruines, 1791. 

2 Origine des Constellations, 1784; Origine de tons les Cultes, 1794; Le Zodiaque chrono- 
logique, 1806. 

3 Das Leben Jesu, Einleit., § 11, end. 

4 Kulischer draws some of his most interesting details from Bonifacius Haneberg, Die 
religiosen Alterthumer der Bibel, Miinchen, 1869. See, for instance, p. 86, citing Haneberg, 
p. 393,, as to the part played by the cross in the Passover feast. 

5 Etudes d 'histoire religieuse, pp. 155, 161. I learn, however, from my friend M. Novicow 
that when he, in conversation with Renan, at a later period, suggested the mythical view, 
the latter answered, "Cela aussi peut se soutenir." The self-contradiction is very 


of the sheer gradual pressure of the argument from analysis — a more 
thorough analysis, I would fain hope, than that which motived the 
earlier proposition. I desire to avow, however, that I consider the 
first recoil from that proposition to have arisen mainly from the 
mere force of psychological habit even on the plane of innovating 
criticism. The belief in the personality of the Gospel Jesus, built 
up not only by the bare gospel record but by whole literatures of 
appreciation, as well as by the daily devotion of ages, is a psychic 
product far removed from even a Greek's belief in Apollo. A clear 
recollection of that psychological state may possibly make the 
present argument in a measure judicial, if not satisfactory. 

The question as to the actuality of the alleged founders of 
ancient religions may best be approached by the comparative 
method. It is now agreed that the ancient deities who figure as 
coming among men to teach creeds, to convey useful knowledge, and 
to found religious institutions, are purely mythical creations. No 
student now believes in the historic actuality of Osiris or Dionysos 
or Herakles, 1 any more than in the existence of Juno or Ashtaroth. 
The early rationalism of Evemeros, which traced all deities alike to 
historical personages, is exploded. The so-called Evemerism of 
Spencer in no sense reinstates that view; for the theory that 
primeval man reached his God-idea by way of ancestor-worship 
gives no shelter to the notion that Hermes and Mithra, for instance, 
were distinguished personages within the historical period, as was 
believed in the eighteenth century by Mosheim. Hermes, Mithra, 
Osiris, Dionysos, Herakles, Attis, Adonis, Horos, are seen to be as 
certainly mythic as Apollo and Zeus and Brahma and Vishnu. 

How then is a line to be scientifically drawn between, on the 
one hand, the mythic personalities of Dionysos and Osiris and 
Adonis, and on the other those of Zarathustra and Buddha and 
Jesus? We all agree that, say, Mohammed is a real historical 
personage. Significantly enough, the incredibility of the lives of 
most famous religion-makers is in almost the exact ratio of their 
historic distance, though not distance, of course, but culture-stage, 
is the determinant. That circumstance is not, however, in itself 
decisive against the actuality of any given founder ; for though all 
history becomes more and more clearly mythical the further we go 
back on any one line of tradition, it is still arguable that if 
Mohammed founded a religion somewhat in the fashion in which 

1 Some scholars, it should be noted, still affirm the historicity of the Hindu God 
Krishna, e.g. Prof. Estlin Carpenter (see above, p. 137) and Prof. Garbe (The Philosophy of 
Ancient India, 1899, p. 85). Many scholars, of course, are still confident of the historicity 
of Buddha. 


(supernaturalism apart) he is said to have done, a Jewish or an 
Asiatic prophet in earlier times may have done the same. It will 
not suffice merely to reply that there are unquestionable myths in 
the stories of Jesus and Buddha : there are one or two such myths 
in the story of the life of Confucius, whose historic actuality is not 
doubted ; there is one such myth in the life of Plato, whose historic 
actuality is no more doubted than that of Aristotle ; and there is 
much myth in the life of Apollonius of Tyana, who appears to be at 
bottom a real historical personage. 1 And a number of thoughtful 
students still believe in the historic actuality of Zarathustra and 
Buddha, who compare so closely with Jesus as religion-founders, 
though in their ostensible biographies they are framed in clouds 
of myth. 

Professor Ehys Davids, for instance, agreeing with M. Senart 
that the Buddha legend is substantially made up of myths from the 
older lore of Krishna and Earn a and Agni, nevertheless cites M. 
Senart as admitting Buddha's historic actuality. "That the 
historical basis is or once ivas there, he [M. Senart] does not doubt ; 
and he holds that Buddhism, like every other system, must have had 
a human founder, and an historical origin." 2 Like every other 
system, be it observed : like the cults of Dionysos and Osiris and 
Herakles ; all of which of course had a "historical origin." But 
what was that origin ; and who was their human founder? Clearly 
there was no one " founder "; there was not even a group or school 
describable as collective founders : we are dealing with a long 
process of evolution from simple primitive forms. If then we reject 
as we do the pseudo-historical Osiris and Dionysos, why do we 
accept as historical Buddha and Jesus ? Shall we say that behind 
the mythic figures of Osiris and Dionysos there may have been 
some remote actual man who communicated certain culture and was 
later worshipped by certain rites ? The answer is that such a 
hypothesis is neither here nor there ; it stands for nothing : it makes 
no impact on our perception. Very much the same must be said of 
the interesting attempt of Miss Harrison 3 to find a historic personage 
behind the shining figure of Orpheus. The bare surmise of a some- 
body, in that case, conveys no image of a personality ; and nothing 
more can well be made out. The accredited personalities of Buddha 
and Jesus, on the other hand, do make a very deep impression. 
But is it more forcible than that made anciently on men's minds by 

1 Compare the recent work of Dr. Flinders Petrie, Personal Religion in Egypt before 
Christianity, 1909, ch. vii. 

2 Buddhism, p. 193. 3 Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. 


the stories of Osiris and Herakles, or than that made in India 
to-day by the story and the mystic teaching of Krishna ? Is not 
the difference for us simply one of psychological habit ? Is there 
any more evidence for a real cult-founding Buddha than for a real 
teaching Krishna ? 

To such a challenge the scholar who in our time has done most 
to illustrate the natural and primeval origination of the religious 
ideas out of which Christism grew is content to give an impatient 
dismissal. " The historical reality both of Buddha and of Christ," 
writes Dr. J. G. Frazer, " has sometimes been doubted or denied. 
It would be just as reasonable to question the historical existence 
of Alexander the Great and Charlemagne on account of the legends 
which have gathered round them. The great religious movements 
which have stirred humanity to its depths and altered the beliefs of 
nations spring ultimately from the conscious and deliberate efforts 
of extraordinary minds, not from the blind, unconscious co-operation 
of the multitude. The attempt to explain history without the 
influence of great men may flatter the vanity of the vulgar, but it 
will find no favour with the philosophic historian." 1 Thus inexpen- 
sively can a specialist dispose of a problem which disturbs his pre- 
suppositions even as his own research disturbs those of others. No 
theologian ever presented as an argument a more complete non 
sequitur than the foregoing. Supposing it to be granted that every 
great innovating religious movement springs " ultimately from the 
conscious and deliberate efforts of extraordinary minds," and that 
there is no medium order of factor between these and " the multi- 
tude," we are not a step nearer proving the historicity of Jesus and 
Buddha. A whole series of relatively " extraordinary minds " may 
be supposed to have co-operated in framing the gospels, the Pauline 
epistles, and the literature of early Buddhism ; and still Jesus and 
Buddha may be mythical. Among the movements coming under 
Dr. Frazer's description may be reckoned the introduction of the 
Dionysiak cult in Greece ; but he would not venture on the strength 
of the formula under notice to assert the historicity of Dionysos. 
He is free, if he will, to rank as extraordinary minds the framers, 
compilers, and redactors of the Pentateuch, and the theocrats of 
post-exilian Jerusalem ; but he will not thereby succeed in proving 
the historicity of Moses and Aaron. His hasty reference to Alexander 
and Charlemagne is the merest begging-of-the-question : the historicity 
of those rulers, as he knows, is proved as fully as that of any rulers 

1 Adonis, Attis, Osiris (Monograph 4 of recast of The Golden Bough), 1906, p. 202, note. 


of their respective epochs, by manifold normal evidence of a kind 
that is totally lacking in the cases of Moses, Jesus, and Buddha. 
The Gospel Jesus is as enigmatic from a humanist as from a super- 
naturalist point of view. Miraculously born, to the knowledge of 
many, he reappears as a natural man even in the opinion of his 
parents : the myth will not cohere. Rationally considered, he is an 
unintelligible portent : a Galilean of the common people, critically 
untraceable till his full manhood, when he suddenly [appears as a 
cult- founder. There is no analogy here to the careers of Alexander 
and Charlemagne. Dr. Frazer's argument is, in fact, in the spirit 
and on the plane of that of the clerical apologists who declare that 
the Resurrection of Jesus is as well attested as the assassination of 
Julius Caesar. 

While the professed mythologist, long committed to the maxim 
that "the myth is framed to explain the rite," thus commits himself 
to the historicity of the non-miraculous details in the gospel narrative, 
even some professed theologians are found so much more alive to 
the nature of the problem as to confess that only in respect of a few 
particulars can they claim to find in the gospels trustworthy primary 
evidence of a real Jesus, as distinguished from a God or Demigod. 
Thus Professor Schmiedel reduces to nine the passages which in his 
opinion clearly testify to the presence of a real person under the 
Messianic mask, 1 though on the basis of these he claims to validate 
much more of the record. And other clerical writers, in an increasing 
number, are found to avow that on a close scrutiny the gospels 
present, not a man Jesus round whom myths have gathered, but an 
apocalyptic Jesus to whom have been given some human traits, 
even as did the Greeks to Demeter, the Earth-Mother. Against the 
nugatory affirmation of Dr. Frazer may be set the pregnant avowal 
of Baur : " How soon would everything true and important that 
was taught by Christianity have been relegated to the order of the 
long-faded sayings of the noble humanitarians and thinking sages 
of antiquity, had not its teachings become words of eternal life in 
the mouth of its Founder." 2 Once more the theologian corrects the 
apriorism of the professed Naturalist. Whatever may have been 
the share of extraordinary minds in securing the spread of the 
Christian or any other religion, it would really be truer to assign the 
main influence to the multitude of ordinary propagandists and the 
favouring social conditions 3 — not to say the " blind co-operation of 

1 See these discussed in Parian Christ s, Part II, ch. ii, § 4, and in the Appendix to the 
present work. 

2 Das Christenthum und die christliche Eirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte, 1853 
pp. 35-36. (Eng. trans, i, 38.) 

3 Compare Baur, as cited. 


the multitude," whose blindness is the main condition of all — than 
to explain all in terms of " extraordinary " founders. Many extra- 
ordinary men have taught greatly without creating great popular 
movements. Apollonius of Tyana so taught ; and where is his 
cultus? Those who have intelligently noted the history of such 
movements as Mormonism and " Christian Science " in modern 
times are in possession of some of the knowledge that discounts the 
conventional formula still relied upon by Dr. Frazer in a field of 
criticism which he has not made his own. 

Entering that field with proper attention to the special tests and 
methods which its nature prescribes, we reach some such generaliza- 
tion as this : that where any alleged religion-founder is represented 
in what appear to be ancient accounts as uttering a coherent and 
impressive moral doctrine, our tendency is to believe in his actuality, 
even if he be otherwise quasi-mythical. It is on this account that 
many men cling to the personalities of Moses and Zarathustra and 
Buddha ; and it is because this is lacking in the myths of Dionysos 
and Osiris that the same men dismiss the notion of their actuality. 
Had the Jesus legend come down to us solely as it stands in the 
apocryphal gospels, which give mere miracles without moral teaching, 
it could not to-day retain any hold among men of education and 
judgment ; though a certain number of such men appear still to 
believe in the miracle stories of the canonical gospels. Apart from 
the sheer force of habit and of partisanship, it is the moral teaching 
that to-day upholds any sincere faith in the tale. 

Now, it is obvious that in a general way this is no sufficient 
ground for a critical belief. There are myths of doctrine as well as 
myths of action. Many plainly fictitious teachings were ascribed to 
King Solomon, who is at most a historical outline ; and the same 
thing could easily happen with a pre-Christian Jesus-God. The 
story of the promulgation of the Ten Commandments is palpable 
myth. Even orthodox scholarship admits the late intrusion of 
doctrinal myth in the New Testament in such a case as the text of 
the Three Witnesses. Moderately- heterodox criticism goes so far 
as to see a similar process behind the text, " Thou art Peter; and 
on this rock I will build my Church." More scientific criticism 
goes a great deal further, and sees, for instance, the same process 
behind the whole discourses of the fourth gospel ; though these very 
discourses only a generation ago set up a special impression of 
actuality in two such men as the Arnolds, father and son. Where 
then does the analysis logically stop ? Careful comparative study 
resolves such discourses as the Sermon on the Mount into 


compilations of the gnomic sayings of many teachers ; and the so- 
called Lord's Prayer is plainly pre-Christian. At what point do 
we touch biographical bottom ? 

The strongest way of putting the Christian case, from the 
rationalist point of view, is one which still passes with many 
believers for semi-blasphemy : the process, namely, of testing the 
synoptic gospels down to an apparent nucleus of primitive narrative. 
Granting that there has been abundant interpolation, this method 
proceeds on the axiom that a nucleus there must have been ; and 
argues that its disencumberment amounts to establishing a solid 
historical basis. Ere long, probably, that will be the position of 
those Christians who still continue to use the weapons of argument ; 
though the interesting attempt of Mr. A. J. Jolley, in The Synoptic 
Problem for English Readers (1893), to set forth the conclusions 
reached by Dr. Bernhard Weiss in his works on Mark and Matthew 
seems thus far 1 to have attracted hardly any orthodox attention in 

Even on the face of it, however, this new position is one of 
retreat, and is not permanently tenable. Accepting for the argument's 
sake the "Primitive Gospel" thus educed, we find it to be still a 
literary patchwork, made up of miracles and unhistorical discourses. 
The Birth Myth and the Crucifixion are not there ; but the 
Temptation Myth and the Transfiguration are. In the forefront 
stands the compiled Sermon on the Mount ; the parables figure as 
public discourses ; the predictions of the fall of Jerusalem, plainly 
written after the event, are admitted ; the mythical Twelve Apostles 
are already installed ; and there is not a single datum of a truly 
biographical quality. Nor does Mr. Jolley once face the problem, If 
such Jesuine teachings were actually current, how came it that 
Paul never cites a single one of them ? 

I do not here press the point that Dr. Weiss and Mr. Jolley 
retain obvious patches : for instance, the " except ye repent ye shall 
all likewise perish," in Luke xiii, where that formula completely 
stultifies the teaching of the context. Let the text be still further 
tested down, to the elimination of such evidently heterogeneous 
tissue, and the invincible difficulty will still face us : the theoretic 
beginner of the cult has eluded search ; we are dealing with myths 
of doctrine and myths of action. The one tenable historic hypo- 
thesis left to us at this stage is that of a preliminary Jesus "B.C.," 
a vague cult-founder such as the Jesus ben Panclira of the Talmud, 

1 Written in 1899. 


put to death for (perhaps anti-Judaic) teachings now lost ; round 
whose movement there might have gradually clustered the survivals 
of an ancient solar or other worship of a Babe Joshua son of Miriam. 
But while this possibility cannot be decisively negated, a study of 
religious evolution in general entitles us to say that the historic cult 
can conceivably have been evolved from the ancient Jesus-cult, 
which, like so many others of the same species, roots in primitive 
nature-worship. And in the account of Apollos in the Acts of the 
Apostles we have an early admission by Christists that a sect 
"knowing only the baptism of John" could speak "exactly" or in 
detail of "the things of Jesus." 1 Round the early historic cult, 
again, in which " Jesus " not of Nazareth figured for Paul as a mere 
crucified Messiah, a speechless sacrifice, there may have coalesced 
various other doctrinal movements, which perhaps incorporated some 
actual utterances of several Jesuses of Messianic pretensions, Nazarite 
and anti-Nazarite. But the historic cult certainly also gathered up, 
generation after generation, many documentary compositions and 
pragmatic and didactic fictions. 

The full presentment of this theory, which gradually conducts us 
from mythology, historically considered, into history, sociologically 
considered, is necessarily left for other treatises. What is here 
undertaken is the final step in the preliminary clearing of the 
mythological ground. In the previous pages we have traced a 
number of Christian myths to their pagan origins. There remain • 
a number of gospel myths of action or narrative, of many of which 
the pagan origin is no less clearly demonstrable ; and there remain 
the mythic ascriptions of doctrine with which the other myths 
coalesced. Without professing to trace all the gospel myths of 
either sort, I have attempted a catalogue raisonne of a score or more 
of the former, thus giving a connected and summary view of those 
already analysed and of a number of others, and I have added some 
of the proofs that the gospel teachings, in so far as they purport to 
be utterances of a wandering and teaching Jesus with twelve disciples, 
are myths of doctrine. 

In the opening treatise I have given reasons for thus bringing 
into the category of myths such literary fictions as ascribe certain 
doctrine to a famous personage under conditions which are clearly 
unhistorical. The myth of Osiris tells that he taught certain things 
and did certain things ; and no one disputes that the entire narrative 
is myth. It lies on the face of the case that no one man invented 

1 See the Revised Version, Acts xviii, 26. 


agriculture or vine culture or taught men to be civilized. When, 
however, we come to a legendary personage whose cult survives, or 
presents a parallel to others which survive, there is an instant recoil 
from such an admission. Men are fain to believe, even after giving 
up supernaturalism, that one Moses invented the Ten Commandments, 
and that one Jesus invented the Golden Eule and ascended a moun- 
tain to proclaim doctrines of forgiveness and non-resistance. Shown 
that all of these doctrines were current before the period in question, 
some men persist in framing formulas about " essential originality," 
though the personage to whom the originality is ascribed is but an 
abstraction from the very utterances thus put in his mouth, every 
detail of the narrative in hand having the stamp of didactic fiction. 
One must evidently reckon with a certain average incapacity to 
assimilate more than a modicum of new truth, and look only for 
gradual psychological adjustments, taking generations to accomplish. 
Capacity may be slightly quickened, however, by a survey of the 
adjustments made in the past. The course of thought, as we have 
seen, is by way of small concessions. First men seek naturalistic 
explanations for prodigies in the Old Testament : after a time some 
consent to see in such prodigies mere myths, based on no one historic 
episode whatever ; the majority, however, still ascribing human 
personality to many mythical personages. At this stage the prodigies 
of the New Testament remain unchallenged even for some who see 
myth in those of the Old ; and only gradually is the tentative critical 
process applied to the later stories also. Here the clinging to person- 
alities is strongest, simply because of the closer emotional relation. 
Much of the delay, however, comes of sheer failure to study the 
phenomena of comparative mythology. Dean Milman, for instance, 
was at pains to argue 1 that the Massacre of the Innocents might well 
pass unnoticed by contemporary historians among the multitude of 
Herod's barbarities ; when a candid glance at earlier forms of the 
same story might have made it clear to him that he was dealing with 
a common myth. 2 So, in recent years, we have such a candid 
and scholarly inquirer as Dr. Percy Gardner repeating once more 
the fallacious explanation, which has imposed on so many of us, that 
" an ass and the foal of an ass " represents a Greek misconception 
of the Hebrew way of saying " an ass " — as if Hebrews even in every - 

1 History of the Jews, Routledge's ed., p. 247. . 

2 The most astonishing aspect of the orthodox belief is the undisturbed condition of 
the minds of so many readers before the fact that all the stupendouscircumstances of the 
Nativity, on the face of the narrative, occur, as Celsus would say, in order that" they 
shall be forgotten not only by the entire generation among whom they take place, but by 
Mary and Joseph, whose later action implies entire oblivion alike of the Annunciation, 
the Conception, the Massacre, the herald angels, and the Magi. 

3 Exploratio Evangelica, 1899, p. 156. 


day life lay under a special spell of verbal absurdity — when a glance 
at the story of Bacchus crossing a marsh on two asses, and at the 
Greek sign — or one of the signs — for the constellation Cancer (an ass 
and its foal), would have shown him that he was dealing with a 
zodiacal myth. 

Broadly speaking, it is by applying all the tests of traditionary 
error, and by recognizing that myth formerly so-called is only one 
form of such error, that we shall reach a just estimate of the historical 
value of the gospels. Baur argued, on the whole justly, 1 that Strauss's 
analysis, able as it was, reached only a negative result because it did 
not include a comparative criticism of the documents as such. 2 By 
negative " he meant, not that the argument was unprofitable 
because it negated a popular belief — an inept commonplace of which 
Baur was incapable — but negative in the sense of leaving the question 
still open : that is to say, that while Strauss offered grounds for 
rejecting much, he could consistently show no grounds for retaining 
anything, though he claimed to do so. And the documentary criti- 
cism which Baur began or reorganized turns out only to carry 
Strauss's process further. Strauss clung to the view that while the 
early Jesuists had little knowledge of the life of the founder they had 
trustworthy knowledge of many of his teachings. But the effect of 
the documentary analysis which Strauss failed to make is to leave us 
no grounds whatever for ascribing any teaching in particular to any 
one teacher called Jesus ; though it is historically possible, and not 
very unlikely, that there were several Jesuses who claimed to be 
Messiahs. What is certain, a priori and a posteriori, is that the 
gospels are no less absolutely untrustworthy as accounts of any 
man's teaching than as accounts of any man's deeds, because they 
gathered up both kinds of statement in the same way. Baur's 
position was that of an extremely sagacious critic — the acutest of his 
time, perhaps — who was moving on the true line of scientific inference, 
but did not live to complete the long journey, and was meantime led 
to spend his powers on a philosophic explanation of his creed which 
has no historic value. In this he was encouraged by his surviving 
presuppositions. " While everything mythic," he tells us, " is unhis- 
torical, not everything unhistorical is mythic." 3 This is the last 
stage of a pragmatic definition of myth. 4 But the way in which 

1 See, however, Zeller's reply : Strauss and Benan, Eng. tr. 1866, p. 35. 

2 Kritische Untersuchungen iiber die kanonischen Evangelien, 1847, pp. 71-73. The same 
objection was made to the methods of Christian apologists a century before in the Examen 
critique cles apologistes de la religion ehretienne, ascribed to Freret. 

3 Kritische Untersuchungen, pp. 72-3. Cp. p. 43. 

4 Strauss on this point took up a more scientific position. "Every unhistorical 
narrative," he writes in reply to Baur in Das Leben Jesufiir das deutsche Volk bearbeitet 


unhistorical statements get to be believed, and unhistorical conclu- 
sions come to be drawn, is just the way in which myths got to be 
believed, added to, and pragmatized. The psychology of all such 
error is substantially the same, and, beyond convenience of descrip- 
tive arrangement, nothing is gained by the distinction under notice. 

As has already been argued, the mythopoeic process is possible to 
the human mind in all periods, and is actively carried on to-day. 
Emerson forcibly writes that Christianity " dwells with noxious 
exaggeration about the person of Jesus. The soul," he protests, 
" knows no persons "; and he notes that ordinary Christian language 
"paints a demigod as the Orientals or the Greeks would describe 
Osiris or Apollo." 1 Yet Emerson himself had just been affirming 
that "Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets. He saw 

with open eye the mystery of the soul Alone in all history, he 

estimated the greatness of man He said in the jubilee of sublime 

emotion, ' I am divine ' " All of which is absolute myth, as truly 

myth as the other version. 

As against the later literary method of Renan and Arnold, which 
consists mainly in putting aside the miracles and accepting the 
narrative that is left, with the arbitrary exception of such teachings 
as seem unedifying, it may be well to show briefly the effect of the 
scientific recognition of all the forms of myth in the narrative. Our 
analysis shows that on the one hand the Twelve Apostles, and on the 
other hand such prominent teachings as the Sermon on the Mount, 
are just as mythical as the Virgin Birth, the Temptation, and the 
Resurrection. At the same time, the documentary analysis shows 
us that Jesus was at first without cognomen ; there was no "of 
Nazareth " in the legend. In the same way the Johannine discourses 
fall to the ground. What then is left? What did "Jesus " teach? 
And who was Jesus ? A Nazarite ? And if there were no Twelve 
Apostles, who was there to report his doctrine ? Seeing that Paul 
knew naught of it, how can we consent to suppose that later Christists 
had any real information ? Nay, if these insuperable problems be set 
aside, how shall we, when delivered from the spell of customary 
acquiescence, continue to believe that any man ever made a popular 
movement by enouncing cryptic parables, most of which are proper 
only to the initiates of a fixed cult, and short strings of maxims some 

(Einleit. iii, § 25, end : 3te Aufl. p. 159), "no matter how it arose, in which a religious 
community see an element of their sacred origins, because of its being an absolute 
expression of their constitutive feelings and ideas, is a myth." The English translation 
(i, 214) makes a sad mess of this passage:— "Every historical narrative, however it may 
have arisen, in which a religious community recognizes a component part of their sacred 
origin as being an absolute expression of constituent feelings and conceptions, is a myth.'" 
The principle had been put by Strauss in the first Leben Jesu, Einleit. § 14, end. 
1 Address to the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, 1838. 


of which represent the last stretch of self-abnegating ethic for brood- 
ing men, and are utterly beyond the acceptance of any unselected 
populace in any age ? 

One realizes afresh the normal difficulty in even recognizing the 
problem, when one turns to the notable work of Dr. Percy Gardner, 
above cited. It marks at some points an advance on even the positions 
of Dr. Hatch, and it frequently lays down sound caveats. Yet imme- 
diately after thus stipulating that "the life of the Master is not, in 
an objective sense, recoverable beyond a certain point," 1 Dr. Gardner 
affirms that Francis of Assisi " was like the Founder of Christianity 
in his gentle spirit, his boundless love for men, his joyful acceptance 
of poverty and self-denial. He was fond of appealing, like Jesus, to 
the facts of the visible world, and in hearty sympathy with life in all 
its forms." 2 Such language implicitly affirms that, however mythical 
be the gospel narratives, we can rely on the genuineness of the logia. 
And yet even in the very act of affirming this, Dr. Gardner shows us 
that he has tacitly eliminated many logia for his purpose, since only 
by a careful selection of passages can we frame the conventional 
effigy of a Jesus of " gentle spirit," with " boundless love for men." 
Our explorer even expressly excludes certain Jesuine dicta as obviously 
mythical. Yet he tacitly founds with absolute confidence on certain 
others. Dr. Gardner, then, while setting himself the highest standards 
of historical method, has only repeated with a difference the proce- 
dures of Renan and Arnold, and has ignored Baur's reminder to 
Strauss. 3 

That this is not done in a merely incidental way, or by passing 
oversight, is made quite clear by a passage in which, again, he pairs 
with Emerson : — 

" The fact is that the life of Jesus was the occasion and the cause of an 
enormous development of the spiritual faculties and perceptions of men. 
He found us children in all that regards the hidden life, and he left us men. 
The writings of his immediate followers show a fulness and ripeness of 
spiritual feeling and knowledge, which makes the best of previous religious 
literature, even the writings of Isaiah -and Plato, seem superficial and 
imperfect. From that time onward (!) men in Christian countries seem to 
have gained new faculties of spiritual observation " 4 

For such an affirmation we want, above all things, evidence : 
we want to know on which of the Jesuine or apostolic sayings the 
thesis is founded; and why those sayings in particular are held 

1 Work cited, p. 172. 2 j^, p> 174# 

3 In his Historic View of the New Testament (1901) Dr. Gardner seems to me more 
arbitrary than ever. His differentiation between the Synoptics and John (pp. 242-6) will 
bear no analysis. 

4 Exploratio, p. 119. 



to be genuine. But Dr. Gardner offers no justification, no explana- 
tion : he fulminates his formula as did Emerson, and there an end. 
It may well be that even Dr. Gardner's measure of defection from 
the Myth will take long to win acceptance, and the present indict- 
ment of it much longer still ; but I cannot conceive that, if men 
continue to argue the matter at all, criticism can forever sit thus 
between the two stools of psychological habit and judicial method. 
It must in time either surrender unconditionally to the myth or 
follow reason. 

Meantime I can but repeat with insistence and with evidence 
that the teaching demigod is as essentially a myth as the wonder- 
working demigod. What Dr. Gardner describes is but an intellectual 
and psychological miracle : a breach of all evolution. If the appari- 
tion of one teacher could thus suddenly bestow subtlety of insight 
on a whole world formerly devoid of it, raising to manhood in one 
generation a humanity which had remained childlike through five 
thousand years of religious speculation, there need surely be no 
more hesitation over such trifles as human Parthenogenesis and 
raising the dead. It ought not to be necessary at this stage of 
thought to refute such a theory of psychological catastrophism, 
which really throws back the whole discussion, at this particular 
point, to a pre-scientific level. Before Dr. Gardner thus apotheosized 
the mythic Jesus in the name of the historic method, Newman, the 
foremost of the cultured and reasoning believers of the century, 
avowed that " There is little in the ethics of Christianity which the 
human mind may not reach by its natural powers, and which here 
or there has not in fact been anticipated." 1 

But it will not suffice merely to counter authority with authority, 
even where the latter has a special weight. The scientific solution 
must lie in a fuller presentation of the proof that neither the 
hypothetic Jesus of the gospels nor his immediate followers represented 
any rare originality, whether of feeling or of fancy or of thought. 
A conspectus of that evidence is now submitted, with the claim that 
no verdict can be adequate which does not face it. Only, we must 
dispose effectually of the myths of action before we attempt to 
estimate the evidence for the doctrine. So little impression has 
been made on the general mind hitherto by the demonstration of 
mythical elements in the gospels, that we find even a trained 
Naturalist, in the very act of applying mythological science to the 
Christian case, taking for granted the conventional " biographical " 

1 Letter to Mr. W. S. Lilly, cited in the latter's Claims of Christianity, 1894, pp. 30-31. 


data. The late Mr. Grant Allen, in his Evolution of the Idea of God, 
does the excellent practical service of bringing Dr. Frazer's theorem 
of the Vegetation-Cult into connection with the Christian doctrine of 
crucifixion and salvation — a step not previously ventured on in any 
English book, though it had been made in Freethought journals. 
Yet Mr. Allen sets out with the dogmatic decision 1 that the Gospel 
Jesus was, " at the moment when we first catch a glimpse of him in 
the writings of his followers, a Man recently deceased, respected, 
reverenced, and perhaps worshipped by a little group of fellow 
peasants who had once known him as Jesus the son of the carpenter. 
On that unassailable Rock of solid historical fact we may well be 
content to found our argument in this volume. Here, at least, 
nobody can accuse us of ' crude and gross Euhemerism.' Or rather 
the crude and gross Euhemerism is here known to represent the 
solid truth." And it is after this affirmation that Mr. Allen reaches 
the conclusion that all the salient items in the Jesus-saga are but 
parts of the once universal rite of the God-Man sacrificed to renew 
the life of vegetation. 

It is difficult to understand how solid truth can be crude and 
gross Euhemerism, which means, and can only mean, the blundering 
application of a false mythological theory to a given problem of 
religious origins. I will not call Mr. Allen's Euhemerism (or 
Evemerism, as the word ought to be written in English) crude and 
gross ; but I do maintain that he has fallen into Evemerism, in the 
sense of an unwarranted assumption, and that his assumption, 
instead of serving as a rock foundation for his application of Dr. 
Frazer's theory to the Christ cult, is really a hindrance to even that 
solution. So little critical heed has he given to the problem that he 
actually commits himself to the detail of "the carpenter," which 
even some supernaturalist critics have admitted to be an unhistorical 
addition, seeing that for Origen 2 the reading of Mark vi, 3, which 
makes Jesus himself a carpenter, was not canonical, and that there 
remains only the phrase in Matt, xiii, 55, for which there is no 
support in Luke or John. Both alike are excluded from the 
"Primitive Gospel " even by the school of Weiss ; and the ration- 
alistic criticism which dismisses Mary and Joseph as alike mythical 
must needs dismiss the myth of Joseph's avocation. Naturalism 
must found itself in a more scientific fashion than this if it is to 
hold its own against the eternal assault of credulity and organized 
ecclesiasticism. The following studies, then, are an attempt to clear 
the ground. 

1 Work cited, p. 16. 2 Against Celsus, vi, 36, end. 

§ 1. The Virgin Birth. 

THOUGH the mythical character of the birth-legend is recognized by 
all who consent to apply rational tests to the gospels, it remains 
important to keep in mind the nature and extent of the documentary 
proof that the myth is borrowed from Paganism. If that be lost 
sight of, the conditions of the composition of the gospels cannot be 
properly realized. Strauss saw the birth-story to be myth, but 
failed to note how emphatically it belonged to the surrounding 
Pagan 1 world, seeing there rather analogies than sources. 

Now, the Virgin-Mother myth is universal in Paganism, 2 and 
certainly has no recognized place in orthodox Judaism before the 
Jesuist period. The so-called prophecy of Isaiah (vii, 14) could 
never have been read as an announcement of a long-distant Parthe- 
nogenesis by the most insane Talmudism had not the myth of 
Virgin-birth constantly obtruded itself from the Pagan side. If, 
indeed, Judaism was to develop its slowly-formed Saviour-myth at 
all, it could scarcely avoid the datum that he be born of a Virgin- 
Mother — that is, of a mortal mother supernaturally impregnated. 
All the Saviour-Gods of Paganism were so reputed, either in respect 
of the mother being a mortal while the father was a God, or in that 
the mother too was a Goddess, and as such termed a virgin by way 
of adoring flattery, as nearly all male Gods were at times termed 
beneficent, whatever might be the cruelty of their supposed deeds. 
It was perhaps in the same spirit that those Goddesses who were 
specially distinguished as virgin, Athene and Artemis and Perse- 
phone, at times received the title of mother; 3 but the converse was 
a more familiar usage. Indeed, the plain probability is that the 
virginal status of Athene in particular is late ; that she was primarily 
a normal Mother-Goddess ; and that her virginity is an ascription 
arising out of the growth of poetico-religious feeling. 4 Thus, as 

1 Cp. Gunkel, Zum religionsgeschichtlichen Verstdndnis des neuen Testaments, 1903, 
p. 68 sq.: " We see here also that a characteristic pagan idea is carried over to Jesus in 

Judaeo-Christianity The gentilising, rnythologising ideas are not first assimilated in the 

later Pagan-Christianity, but are already present in Judseo-Christianity." To this it should 
be added that many Greek myths root in old Semitic lore equally with Hebraic myths— 
e.g. the myths of Samson and Herakles. Compare the story of Delilah and Samson's hair 
with that of the hair of Nisus, cut off by his daughter. Paus. i, 19. 

2 See above, p. 168. 

3 Pausanias, v, 3; Strabo, x, 3, § 19; 6, § 9; Boeckh, Corp. Inscr. Grcec. 3993; Aristotle, 
cited by Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii. 

4 Cp. R. W. Mackay, The Progress of the Intellect, 1850, i, 220, 235. 



above noted, Here, wife of Zeus and Queen of Heaven ; Cybele, the 
"mother of the Gods"; Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis; 
Demeter, the Earth-Mother, who, as such, equates with both Ceres 
and Vesta ; and Venus herself, were all " Virgin "* as much as Isis, 
who was at once sister and wife (and in a late version the mother) 
of Osiris, and was fabled to have been deflowered in the very womb 
of her own mother. 2 And Dionysos in particular came to figure 
indifferently as son of Demeter, the Mother, and of Persephone, 
' the Maiden," styled ayvrjs, pure. 3 Here, we saw, was fabled to 
become a virgin anew every year. 

All of these Goddesses in turn became associated with the Virgo 
Coelestis, the Virgin of the Zodiacal sphere, who, with her extended 
branch or ear of corn, 4 was, no doubt, with other ancient figures of 
fruit-holding Goddesses, the kernel of the myth of Mother Eve and 
her apple, besides lending herself to the Jewish "prophecy" of the 
Messianic "branch." 5 Demeter was Kap7ro4>6pos, and dfjLa\Xo<]>6pos, 
and x^-ovfap '*, an ^ wp-qcftopos, the corn-bearer, the sheaf-bearer, the 
leaf-bearer, the fruit-bearer, as well as Kovpocf>6po<s, the child-bearer. 
Athene, again, even in Homer, where she is no longer the Mother- 
Goddess, is the nurse of the divine Erechtheus, borne by Mother 
Earth. 6 In the special machinery of the Joseph and Mary myth, 
again — the warning in a dream and the abstention of the husband 
— we have a simple duplication of the story of the relations of the 
father and mother of Plato, the former being warned in a dream by 
Apollo, so that the child was virgin-born. 7 

An element of mystification has been introduced into the 
discussion by the plea that only in the gospel story is a Saviour- 
God born of a virgin mother without any male congress. 8 In the 
stories of Gods begetting mortal children, it is contended, the God- 

1 See refs. above, p. 168, note 13. Cp. Firniicus, De Errore, iv : Porphyry, De A bstinentia, 
ii, 32; Lucian, De Sacrificiis, c. 6 ; and the Latin inscription in Wright, The Celt, the 
Roman, and the Saxon, 4th ed. p. 321. 

2 Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, c. 12. She is Virgin as identified with Athene and Perse- 
phone. Id. cc. 27, 62. 

3 The association of Dionysos with Demeter is relatively late, there being no trace of it 
in the Homeridian hymn ; but it is certainly pre-Christian, and is only a transference of 
the Child-God from one Goddess-Mother to another. Cp. Cicero, De nat. deor. ii, 24. 

4 Cicero, De nat. deor. ii, 42. 

5 For the figure of this Virgin as represented in the ancient Zodiacs and constellation 
maps see, for instance, the frontispiece to Volney's Ruins of Empires, and the plate in 
Ernest Bunsen's Islam, or the True Christianity, 1889. 

6 Iliad, ii, 547. Grote (ed. 1888, i, 52) notes the "phantom of maternity" in this myth, 
but does not give due weight to the traces of primordial motherhood in Athene's cult. 

7 Diogenes Laertius, b. iii, c. i, § 1. It is true that Diogenes wrote in the second or third 
century " after Christ " ; but for this story he cites (1 ) Speusippus, the nephew of Plato, whose 
Funeral Banquet of Plato was extant ; (2) Clearchus' Panegyric on Plato, which likewise 
belongs to Plato's generation; and (3) Anaxilides' History of Philosophers. The myth, as 
regards Plato, is thus evidently pre-Christian. Nor is it confined to Europe even in relation 
to philosophers, for we find it applied to Confucius, as to Buddha. See above, p. 186. 

8 See in the collection of lectures, Religion and the Modern World, 1909, that of the Rev. 
Canon McCulloch, "Comparative Religion and the Historic Christ," pp. 130-137, 


father is understood as procreating sexually, whereas the Gospel 
Jesus is " spiritually " begotten. But this plea, which is at best a 
mere sophistication, is cancelled by the simple notation, not only of 
pagan myths in which the virgin-mother is expressly represented as 
being symbolically or mystically impregnated, but of the frequent 
faith of primitive peoples in non-physical impregnation. So far 
from being a late product of " spiritual " thought, the concept is 
really primordial, and tells of a time when primitive man had no 
certain notion as to the bisexual procreation of his children. A 
theorem to this effect was set forth by Mr. Hartland 1 in 1894 ; and 
testimony since collected in many fields is sufficient to raise it to 
the level of an anthropological truth. Not only is the class of 
wonder-births found to be ubiquitous and innumerable, but there is 
evidence that in our own day there exist whole tribes for whom 
spiritual birth " is an every-day notion. Of the existing natives of 
north-central Australia we learn that " one and all in these tribes 
believe that the child is the direct result of the entrance into the 
mother of an ancestral spirit individual. They have no idea of 
procreation as being directly associated with sexual intercourse, and 
firmly believe that children can be born without this taking place." 2 
And though, at somewhat higher levels of civilization, the idea of 
strictly non-sexual procreation — as by the sun, by wind, by fruits, 
by eating of magical fish, by fire, by a wish, by treading on a holy 
spot, by a shadow, by divine breath, and so forth 3 — alternates with 
the notion of magical forces merely promoting normal impregnation, 
we are entitled to say that the belief in non-sexual birth by re-incar- 
nation of "spirits" has been widespread, and that the state of 
ignorance as to the law of procreation seen now in certain Australian 
tribes " was probably once the state of other races and indeed of all 
humanity." 4 Given this, we are bound to see in the birth-myths of 
classic antiquity only one of a hundred survivals of primeval notions 
in "higher" religious systems. On the plane of ancient theosophy, 
the idea of a mystical birth was made familiar to the Mediterranean 
peoples by the scroll of the Virgin-Mother-Goddess at Sais, whose 
fruit was the Sun, and whose robe no male had raised. 5 And this 
myth was but a development of more primitive ideas such as that 

1 The Legend of Perseus, vol. i, 1894. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, The Nortliem Tribes of Central Australia, 1904. p. 330. Cp. pp. 
150, 156, 162, 606. "Mr. Roth's latest work in Queensland shows clearly that the idea of 
spirit children entering women, and that sexual intercourse has nothing of necessity to do 
with procreation, is a very widespread belief among the Australian aborigines." Id. pref . 
p. xiii. Cp. p. 145, note. 

3 See ch. i of Mr. Hartland's Primitive Paternity (Nutt, 2 vols. 1910), an admirably 
learned and comprehensive survey of the whole problem. 4 Id. i, 253-4. 

5 Plutarch, I. and O. c. 9. Cp. Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, ed. 1878, iii, 42-43. 


concerning the Polynesian First Mother, Vari, " the- very-beginning," 
who makes her children by plucking pieces out of her sides. These, 
in ritual, have " no father whatever." 1 

The religious usage of prayer to deities to grant offspring, again, 
would develop in all directions the belief in miraculous impregnations, 
entirely apart from normal fatherhood, which in the terms of the 
case would be supposed to be out of the question. 2 Pagan and 
Christian myths of the kind are thus alike inferribly survivals from 
prehistoric times. On the other hand, a quasi-abstract notion of 
divine generative force figures in the Babylonian myth of the creation, 
adapted in Genesis, in which Tiamat (Chaos, the Abyss) is feminine, 
and the Divine Spirit or Wind hovers above. 3 Among God-bearers, 
the river-nymph Nana, mother of Attis, is miraculously impregnated 
by a pomegranate ; 4 the Mexican Coatlicue, mother of Huitzilopochtli, 
by the touch of a ball of feathers ; 5 and even Here is described as 
going far away from Zeus and men to conceive and bear Typhon — 
or Ares — or Dionysos — or Hephaistos. 6 Thus even the notion of a 
strict or a " spiritual " Parthenogenesis is common to pagan and 
Christian thought. And in the Christian case we have still an 
element of the normal barbarian notion of divine fatherhood (present 
in Gen. vi, 4), inasmuch as in the Johannine writings Jesus is 
repeatedly proclaimed the " only-begotten Son " of the deity. It is 
of course impossible to tell how the early orthodox Christians in all 
cases thought about the gospel story ; but there was in all likelihood 
a medium idea between the Ebionite belief in the simple natural 
birth of Jesus and anything like a rigorously " spiritual " view. 7 In 

1 Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, 1876, pp. 3-6, 9. 

2 Cp. P. Saintyves, Les vierges meres et les naissances miraculeuses, 1908, introd. M. 
Saintyves refuses to accept the record of the ignorance of many [in large measure isolated] 
Australian aborigines as to the law of procreation. The denial is quite unwarranted ; and 
the facts recorded by Messrs. Spencer, Gillen, and Roth are in perfect harmony with his 
own main thesis. The Australians and the Hebrews alike believed that sex intercourse is 
subsidiary to "spirit" action : the former simply regard it as unessential. It is arguable, 
however, that the belief in spirit-conception among certain tribes may have displaced or 
overridden the knowledge of fatherhood seen to exist among other tribes of the same race 
or region. 

3 Cp.Rev. Dr. A. S. Palmer, Babylonian Influence on the Bible, 1899, pp. 4-8. 

4 Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, v, 6, citing Timotheus ; Pausanias, vii, 17. 

5 Above, p. 171. 

6 Horn. Hymn to Apollo, 326-331 ; Ovid, Fasti, v, 231-258 ; Diod. Sic. iii, 66 ; Hesiod, 
Theogony, 927. 

7 I do not attach much weight to many of the frequent and facile generalizations of 
Renan on ancient history (his doctrine of Semitic monotheism has been a mere stumbling- 
block to historic science) ; but it may be worth while in this connection to consider two 
of his utterances : " C'est par un grave malentendu que Ton adresse a l'antiquite le 
reproche de materialisme. L'antiquite n'est ni materialiste ni spiritualiste, elle est 
humaine": "Le spiritualisme Chretien est, au fond, bien plus sensuel que ce qu'on appelle 
le materialisme antique — je ne parle, bien entendu, que de la haute et pure antiquite 
grecque." (fitudes d'histoire religieuse, ed. 1862, pp. 413, 414.) The word "sensuel" is of 
course not to be taken in the aggravated meaning of "sensualist." 

On the topic in the text compare Lactantius, Div. Inst, iv, 12. After telling how the 
Holy Spirit, descending from heaven, chose the holy Virgin, " cujus utero se insimiaret," 
Lactantius asks : " If it is known to all that certain animals are accustomed to conceive 
by the wind and the breeze, why should any one think it wonderful when we say that a 


any case, any form of the belief has pagan precedent ; and a little 
reflection might bring home even to the sincere believer the signi- 
ficance of the fact that the gospel story is a late accretion, unknown 
to the writers of the Pauline epistles. 1 Those who, like Canon 
McCulloch, affirm the historicity of the miraculous Nativity in face 
not only of its absence from the second and fourth gospels, but of 
the absolute silence of the epistles on the theme, are outside of 
critical discussion. 

The question of the influence of zodiacal and constellation lore 
on ancient religion, though raised over a century ago by Dupuis and 
Volney, is perhaps still the least studied of the problems surrounding 
our inquiry. That the Virgo Cmlestis goes back to early Akkadian 
astronomy ; that the figure determines in part the legend and ritual 
of many Goddesses of Vegetation, and underlies the myths of Astraea, 
Themis, Eve, and Mary ; and that the rising of the constellation 
Virgo at midnight at the beginning of the solstitial year has a plain 
bearing on the birth story, will probably not now be denied by any 
one who will examine the old celestial globe in connection with 
Greek and Christian mythology. But whether the ancient rustic 
usages which in the East parallel the early Christian ritual-play of 
the birth of the God-Child in a stable were derived from the imagery 
of the celestial vault, in which the Virgin faces the husbandman, 
and the Sign of Capricorn is the sun's habitation at the winter 
solstice, it is neither possible nor necessary to determine in this 
connection. Suffice it that the potent influence of mythopceic 
astrology surrounds the birth legend, and shapes it jointly with the 
religious presuppositions of Jews and Gentiles. 

No less significant is the fact that most of the few details given 
of the Virgin-Mother in the gospels are in striking correspondence 
with Pagan myths. Early in January the Egyptians celebrated 
" the Coming of Isis out of Phoenicia," 2 from which it appears that 
Isis was supposed to make a journey either to bring forth Horos 3 or 

virgin was impregnated by the Spirit of God?" The mirabile dictu of Virgil (Georg. iii, 
274) completes the proof that the virgin-birth myth is on the normal plane of pagan 
speculation, though Lactantius had evidently met with doubters. As to survivals of 
Christian belief in spiritual paternity see Ploss, Das Weib in der Natur- und Volkerkunde, 
ed. Bartels, 1905, i, 573. For older German notions see E. Miilhause, Die Urreligion des 
deutschen Volkes, 1860, § 1. 

1 A professional apologist, Canon McCulloch (as above cited), affirms that in heathen 
myths of virgin-birth "we find that the mother is nearly always already married," "nor 
do the tales hint that ordinary paternity is not involved"; adding that " they have arisen 
from a stage of thought in which a purely material view of the universe was held, and 
in which conception through other than physical means was undreamt-of." Canon 
McCulloch is by way of being a student of "Comparative Religion," and has written a 
manual on the subject; yet he appears to ignore alike the ideas of the Australian 
aborigines in this connection, and of the Polynesian and ( Mexican mythology. If he 
insists that the ancients thought of the generating wind as " physical," because Zephyrus 
figured as a male, he may be invited to explain how the Hebrews and Christians con- 
ceived the "Holy Spirit" or Pneuma, whether on the male or the female view of its 
personality. 2 piutarch, I. and O. c. 50. 3 See above, p. 187. 


after the birth, as Mary goes into Egypt. But the bringing-forth of 
the God-child while " on a journey " is an item common to a dozen 
pre-Christian myths, as those of Mandane and Cyrus, Latona 
and Apollo, Maya and Buddha, the stories of iEsculapius and 
Apollonius of Tyana, and the probable basis of that of Hagar and 
Ishmael ; * and the peculiar motive of the taxpaying is derived 
either from the Hindu legend of Krishna or — and as is more probable 
— from a cognate Asiatic myth. 2 History it cannot be. 

§ 2. The Mythic Maries. 

The first step of criticism, after recognizing the myth of the 
Virgin-Birth, is to assume that the mother of the " real " Jesus was 
nevertheless one Mary (Miriam), the wife of Joseph. For this 
assumption there is no justification. The whole birth-story being 
indisputably late and the whole action mythic, the name is also to 
be presumed mythical. For this there is the double reason that 
Mary, or Miriam, was already a mythic name for both Jews and 
Gentiles. The Miriam of Exodus is no more historical than Moses : 
like him and Joshua, she is to be reckoned an ancient deity 
Evemerized ; and the Persian tradition that she was the mother of 
Joshua ( = Jesus), 3 taken in connection with the mythical aspects of 
both, raises an irremovable surmise that a Mary the Mother of Jesus 
may have been worshipped in Syria long before our era. 4 

It is not possible from the existing data to connect historically 
such a cult with its congeners ; but the mere analogy of names and 
epithets goes far. The mother of Adonis, the slain "Lord" of the 
great Syrian cult, is Myrrha ; and Myrrha in one of her myths is the 
weeping tree from which the babe Adonis is born. Again, Hermes, 
the Greek Logos, has for mother Maia, whose name has further 
connections with Mary. In one myth, Maia is the daughter of 
Atlas, 5 thus doubling with Maira, who has the same father, 6 and 
who, having "died a virgin," 7 was seen by Odysseus in Hades. 
Mythologically, Maira is identified with the Dog- Star, which is the 
star of Isis. 8 Yet again, the name appears in the East as Maya, the 
Virgin-Mother of Buddha ; and it is remarkable that according to a 
Jewish legend the name of the Egyptian princess who found the babe 

1 See above, Christ and Krishna, pp. 187-8. 2 Id. pp. 189-90. 3 Above, p. 99. 

4 As to the problem of a pre-Christian Jesus cp. Pagan Christs, Pt. II, ch. i, § 10; W. B. 
Smith, Der vorchristliche Jesus, 1906: Prof. Dr. A. Drews, Die Christusmythe, 2te Aufl. 
1909, p. 27; T. Whittaker, The Origins of Christianity, 2nd ed. 1909, p. 27 ; Grant Allen, 
Evolution of the Idea of God, 1897, p. 389. ft 

5 Apollodoros, iii, x, 1, 2. 6 Pausanias viii, 48. 

7 Id. x, 30, citing the lost poem, The Return from Ilium ; see also the scholiast on 
Odyssey, xi, 325. 

s Preller, Griech. Myth, i, 359, following Hesychius. Cp. Plutarch, I. and O. c. 61. 


Moses was Merris. 1 The plot is still further thickened by the fact 
that, as we learn from the monuments, one of the daughters of 
Eamses II. was named Meri. 2 And as Meri meant " beloved," and 
the name was at times given to men, besides being used in the phrase 
beloved of the Gods," the field of mythic speculation is wide. 

In the matter of names, it is of some though minor interest to 
recall that Demeter is associated in early Greek mythology with one 
Jasius or Jasion — not as mother, but as lover, 3 he being the son of 
Zeus and Electra, or otherwise of Minos. 4 Jason, we know, actually 
served as a Greek form of the name Joshua or Jesous ; 5 and Jasion, 
who in one story is the founder of the famous Samothrakian 
mysteries, 6 is in the ordinary myth slain by Zeus. But the partial 
parallel of his name is of less importance than the possible parallel 
of his mythic relation to the Goddess Mother, and the fact that he 
had a shrine in every Pelasgic settlement. 7 

In many if not all of the cults in which there figures a nursing 
mother it is found that either her name signifies " the nurse," or that 
becomes one of her epithets. 8 Thus Maia stands for "the nurse" 9 
(rpo<f>6s) ; Mylitta means "the child-bearing one"; 10 both Demeter 
and Artemis were styled " child-rearers "; u and Isis was alternately 
styled "the nurse" and "the mother." 12 Now, one of the most 
important details of the confused legend in the Talmud concerning 
the pre-Christian Jesus Ben Pandira, who is conjoined with Ben 
Stada, is that the mother is in one place named Miriam Magdala, 13 
Mary "the nurse," or " the hair-dresser." 14 As Isis too plays the 
part of a hair-dresser, 15 it seems clear that we are dealing here also 
with myth, not biography. In the gospels we have Mary the 
Magdalene — that is, of the supposed place Magdala, which Jesus in 
one text visits. 16 But Magdala at most simply means a tower 
or "high place" (the same root yielding the various senses of 

1 Eusebius, Prceparatio Evangelica, ix,27 (Migne. Ser Grcec. xxi, 729), citing Artapanus. 

2 Brugsch, Egypt under the Pharaohs, Eng. tr. 1st ed. ii, 117. It is noteworthy that 
Ramses II. had Semitic blood in him, and introduced into Egypt the Semitic institution 
of the harem. Rawlinson, Hist, of Ancient Egypt, ii, 324. 

3 Odyssey, v, 125; Hesiod, Theogony, 969. 

4 Cp. R. W. Mackay, TJie Progress of the Intellect, i, 319-320. 

s Josephus, 12 Ant. v, 1. 6 preller, Griech. Myth, i, 667; Diod. Sic. v, 48, 49. 

7 Mackay, as cited. 

8 Cp. Hesychius, s.v. Ammas, cited by K. O. Mtiller, Dorians, i, 404, note. Selden (De 
Diis Syris, Synt. ii, cap. ii, ed. 1680, p. 182) derives Ammas from the Semitic Aymma = 

9 Porphyry, De Abstinentia, iv, 16. 10 Bahr, SymboliJc des mosaischen Cultus, i, 436. 
" Above, p. 168. 12 Plutarch, I. and O. cc. 53, 56. 

13 Cp. Derenbourg, Essai sur I'histoire et la geographie de la Palestine, le Ptie. 1867, 
p. 471, note. 

14 Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud, and the Midrashic Literature, 
part iii, 1888, p. 213a, citing the Hagigah, 4b; Sanh. 67a; Sabb. 104b— earlier edd. Cp. 
Reland, Palestina Ulustrata, 1. i, b. iii, s.v. Magdala (ed. 1714, p. 884); Lightfoot, Horcs 
Hebraicce : in Luc. viii, 2 (ed. 1674, p. 101). 

w Plutarch, I. and O. c. 15. 16 Matt, xv, 39, A.V. 


11 nursing "= rearing, and ' hair-dressing") ; and in the revised text 
Magdala gives way to Magadan, thus disappearing entirely from the 
gospels. There is no documentary trace of it save as a citadel 
so named by Josephus. 1 Mary the Magdalene, finally, plays in the 
gospels a purely mythical part, that of one of the finders of the risen 
Lord. The interpolated text in Luke (viii, 2), baldly describing her 
as having had seven devils cast out of her by Jesus, is equally remote 
from history ; but it points towards the probable mythic solution. 
Maria the Magdalene, who in post-evangelical myth becomes a 
penitent harlot, is probably cognate with the Evemerized Miriam of 
the Mosaic myth, who also is morally possessed by devils, and is 
expressly punished for her sin before being forgiven. Something 
else, evidently, has underlain the pseudo-historical tale ; and the 
Talmudic reference, instead of being a fiction based on the scanty 
data in the gospels, is presumptively an echo of a mythic tradition, 
which may be the real source of the gospel allusions. In Jewry the 
profession of hair-dressing seems to have been identified with that of 
hetaira — the character ultimately ascribed in Christian legend to 
Mary the Magdalene. 

The gospels, coming into existence at a time when on all hands 
asceticism as a religious principle was outfacing phallicism and 
sexualism, could not admit of any myth representing the God as 
having sex relations with women ; though in the fourth gospel, 
where he is humanly and attractively pictured as the tender friend of 
the sisters of Lazarus, there is also left open the unpleasant problem 
before alluded to. Even in this case, however, the friendship with 
a "Mary" points towards some old myth in which a Palestinian 
God, perhaps named Yeschu or Joshua, figures in the changing 
relations of lover and son towards a mythic Mary — a natural fluctua- 
tion in early theosophy, and one which occurs with a difference in 
the myths of Mithra, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, Horos, and Dionysos, all 
of whom are connected with Mother-Goddesses and either a consort 
or a female double, the mother and the consort being at times 
identified. 2 This dual relation, as it happens, stamps the whole 
Goddess-worship of the pre-classic " Minoan " civilization of the 

1 Wars, xi, 25; Antiq. xiii, 23; xviii, 1. 

3 One mythic source of this double relation lies in the conception of the Sun-God s 
connection with the Goddesses of Dawn and Twilight. It was equally natural to picture 
him as born of the Dawn, and as the lover who leaves her. Again, he could as easily be 
figured as born of the Night, and again as the lover of the Night or the Twilight. Cp. Cox, 
Mythology of the Aryan Nations, pp. 33, 241-8 ; Manual of Mythology, pp. 96-97. The story 
of OMipus marrying his mother Jocasta was thus mythically originated. But the dual 
relation in the old " Minoan " worship arose probably in a simpler way. Mother Earth 
is fructified by the grain she herself produces. For another explanation see Wiedemann, 
Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, Eng. tr. 1897, p. 104. 


iEgean, in which the Nature- Goddess is the dominant figure. 1 And 
we find it yet again, with a difference, in the myth of the Latin 
Bona Dea, who is variously the daughter, the sister, and the wife of 
Faunus. 2 And the solution in the case of the Jesus myth becomes 
pretty clear when we come to the story of the Eesurrection. 

As at the beginning, so at the end of the story, Mary plays a 
mythic part. In the gospels, taken as a whole, she has two typic 
characters — that of the child-bearer and that of the Mater Dolorosa, 
mourning for her child slain ; and at both of those points we have 
for the legend those most decisive of all origins, ritual and art. No 
less general than the figure of the child-suckling Goddess was the 
conception of a mourning Goddess, or Dolorous Mother. In the 
myths of Venus and Adonis, Ishtar and Tammuz, Cybele and Attis, 
we have at first sight a non-maternal 3 but in another view a maternal 
mourning; 4 while Demeter, wailing for Persephone, was for the 
Greeks pre-eminently the Mater Dolorosa; 5 and there is a rather 
remarkable anticipation of the inconsolable " Rachel weeping for 
her children " in Hesiod's account of Ehea (Cybele) possessed by 
a grief not to be forgotten " because of her children, whom their 
sire Kronos had devoured. 6 In the cult of Attis the weeping of the 
Great Mother over the mutilated body of the youth is a ceremonial 
feature; 7 and in the saga which makes Demeter the mother of 
Dionysos it is she who brings together the mangled limbs of the 
young God (as Isis in one story does with Osiris, and in another 
with Horos) when he has been dismembered by the Titans, where- 
after she bears him again. 8 And most noteworthy of all is the 
coincidence of the mourning of the two or more Maries with the 
ritual lamentation of the " divine sisters " Isis and Nephthys for 
Osiris — a customary funeral service with the Egyptians. 9 That 
lament was supposed to be made at the spring equinox, the time of 

1 R. M. Burrows, The Discoveries in Crete, 1907, p. 114. 

2 See Ettore Pais, Ancient Legends of Boman History, Eng. trans. 1906, pp. 73-74. 

3 Diodorus, iii, 59. 

4 In one version of the Aphrodite and Adonis myth Adonis is a child given by Aphrodite 
in a chest into the charge of Persephone (Apollodoros, b. iii, c. xiv, 4); and Macrobius 
(Sat. i, 20), describing the image of the mourning Goddess at Mount Libanus, goes on to 
explain that it means the earth (the mother) mourning during winter for the loss of the 
sun. It is clear from Lucian's account that she combined many Goddess-attributes. 
(Cp. AmmianusMarcellinus, xix, i, 11.) In the myth of Cybele and Attis, again, the 
character of the " mother of the Gods " and her " love without passion for Attis " (so Julian : 
the popular view was different, according to Arnobius, v, 13; Diodorus, iii, 57; Lucian, 
Be SacriUciis, 7), recall the two Maries of the Christian legend, one the mother, the other 
the penitent devotee. 

5 Grote and Renan apply the term to her: History of Greece, 4th ed. i, 38; Etudes 
d'histoire religieuse, p. 53. 

6 Hesiod, Theog. 467. 

7 Arnobius, Adversus Gentes, v, 7 ; vii, 343. Cp. Diodorus, as last cited. 

8 Diodorus, iii, 62. In another version the Mother Goddess Rhea performs the function 
(Cornutus, De natura deorum, 30); in yet another Apollo does it by order of Zeus (Clem. 
Alex. Protrept. ii, 18)— a parallel to the function of John in the Christian story. 

9 Records of the Past, vol. ii, pp. 113-120, 


the mythic crucifixion ; and it is plain that the gospel story has 
been manipulated on some such basis. In Matt, xxvii, 56, we have 
as mourners " Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and 
Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee." Here the mother 
of James and Joses is a crux for the orthodox, who dispute as to 
whether she was simply the whilom Virgin ; and the difficulty is 
not helped by verse 61, where we have " Mary Magdalene and the 
other Mary." Since Mary the mother of Jesus is here not mentioned 
at all, and nothing whatever has been said as to her dying previously, 
the inference is that the narratives of the part played by the women 
at the resurrection were framed before the birth- story had become 
current. The Mary-myth thus grew up from two separate roots. 

In Mark, matters are further complicated. " Mary Magdalene 
and Mary the mother of James the less and Joses " are accompanied 
by Salome (xv, 40) ; Mary Magdalene and Mary the (mother ?) of 
Joses see Jesus buried (47) ; while Mary Magdalene and Mary the 
(mother?) of James with Salome bring the spices (xvi, l). In Luke, 
again (xxiv, 10), we have the two latter Maries and Joanna, not at 
the cross, but at the tomb. More complicated still does the matter 
become in John, where (xix, 25) we have Jesus' mother (not named) 
and her sister Mary the (wife?) of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 
Of these variations the orthodox explanation is the lapse of memory 
on the part of the chroniclers — a mere evasion of the problem. In 
view of all the data, we may turn with some degree of confidence to 
the solution of an ancient ritual usage, with occasional variations, 
represented in pictures or sculpture. What we already know of 
ancient ritual supports the view ; and, as we have seen, there are 
weighty reasons for believing that the Christian legend was first set 
forth in a dramatic worship. 1 It is not impossible that the two and 
three Maries were suggested by the Moirai, or Fates, who, as God- 
desses of Birth and Death, naturally figured in many artistic 
presentations of religious death scenes. Concerning them we know 
that, while they were commonly reckoned as three, they were at 
times, notably in the temple at Delphi, put as only two — Apollo 
there being, as with Zeus elsewhere, Moiragetes, leader (and Arbiter) 
of the Fates, and as such substituted for one of them. 2 But on the 
face of the case mourning figures are the more likely sources of the 
Christian myth-item. The crowd of women who in all the accounts 
are represented as following the God from Galilee would on this 
hypothesis be, equally with the Maries, figures in a ritual lamentation 

1 See above, Christ and Krishna, pp. 218-23 ; and Pagan Christs, Part IT, ch. 1. 

2 Cp. Pausanias, x, 24 ; Plutarch, On the E at Delphi, c. 2. 


such as belonged to all the pagan worships of a slain Saviour-God ; 
as in the usage of the " women weeping for Tammuz," which the 
Hebrew prophet denounced centuries before. 1 And even as the 
Goddess wept annually over the image of the beloved Attis or Adonis 
or Osiris, figuring first as consort or lover and later as mother, so in 
the early Jesuist mystery-drama, which excluded the lover-motive, 
might a Maria (a tradition from a similar ancient Goddess-cult) 
weep over the image of the Crucified One, figuring as his devoted 
disciple ; till the fourth gospel, which has no Birth Story, and which, 
elsewhere as here speaking of Jesus' mother without naming her, 
introduces her as the first of three Maries who stand by the cross. 
Thereafter, perhaps against a reluctance of many to give the God an 
earthly mother at all, the myth-cycle rounded itself for the Christian 
cultus. In the fourth gospel the " other Mary " is placed beside a 
sister, Martha, and figures with her in the mourning scene of the 
burial and resurrection of Lazarus — ostensibly another variant of 
the primary " two Maries " motive. And in the Gnostic Pistis 
Sophia, where the "other Mary" is found in the divine society 
with Mary the mother, Martha likewise intervenes. 2 We are wholly 
on the plane of myth. 

The finding of the body by a woman or women, in any case, was 
equally part of the cults of Osiris and Attis, though there would 
doubtless be local variations, as in the different Christian versions. 
And the crowd of women followers is in a general way obviously 
precedented in the myth of Dionysos, which, as we shall see, 
Christism copies at several points. 

To surmise, in the face of all the mythic data, that there was 
a Mary Magdalene, who with " the other Mary " thought she saw 
either the risen Lord or the angel announcing the Lord's resurrec- 
tion, is a mere defiance of all critical tests. Eenan, accepting the 
myth for his artistic purposes, notes that Paul says nothing about 
the women ; and he implies a touch of apostolic misogyny. This is 
but critical caprice. The rational inference is that even the late 
interpolator who made Paul speak of Jesus as having appeared to 
five hundred at once, either had not yet met with, or disbelieved, the 
Magdalene story, though narrative gospels were already in existence. 

§ 3. The Myth of Joseph. 

Alike from the point of view of the mythologist and from that of 
the believer, there is at first sight something of a crux in the legend 

1 Ezekiel viii, 14. 2 Ed. Mead, pp. 13, 60, 120. 


which gives the " Virgin " a husband. Had Joseph figured to start 
with as the father of Jesus, the grafting-on of the myth of the super- 
natural conception could have happened all the same, that being 
after all only a new and quasi-pagan form of the common Hebraic 
myth of the birth of a sanctified child to aged parents. But the 
mythical father appears, so far as we know, simultaneously with the 
mythic mother, albeit only to occasion the assurance that he is not 
really the father at all. Thus he does not strengthen the claim of 
the mother's virginity; and there is no ostensible ground for his 
invention. Apologists might hereupon argue that the detail is thus 
obviously genuine biography ; and even the naturalist might be so 
led to surmise that " the " Gospel Jesus had had a known parentage, 
and that the virgin-birth-myth was merely superimposed on the 
facts. All the while, however, there is a decisive solution in terms 
of mythology. 

The first preoccupation of the early Judaic myth-makers, 
evidently, was to present the Messiah as Ben David, " son " of the 
hero-king, himself clothed about with myth, like Cyrus. For this 
purpose were framed the two mythic genealogies. But it so 
happened that the Palestinian tradition demanded a Messias Ben 
Joseph — a descendant of the mythic patriarch — as well as a Messias 
Ben David. We are not concerned here with the origin of the 
former doctrine, which suggests a partial revival of the ancient 
adoration of the God Joseph as well as that of the God Daoud, 
though it may have been a tribal matter. "It is not likely," says 
one scholar, 1 " that the idea of a Messiah the son of Joseph would 
have its origin anywhere but among the Samaritans, who were 
always eager to raise the tribe of Joseph at the expense of Judah." 
The fourth gospel 2 shows the occurrence of Samaritan contacts 
with the Jesuist cult ; and the book of Acts assumes that it was 
spread equally through Samaria and Judaea. 3 There were thus 
sufficient grounds for adopting the favourite Samaritan myth. 

But it suffices us that the myth had a general Jewish currency. 
The Hebraist just cited summarizes the doctrine on the subject as 
follows : " Messiah the Son of Joseph will come before Messiah the 
Son of David, will assemble the ten tribes in Galilee, and lead them 
to Jerusalem, but will at last perish in battle against Gog and 

1 Nutt, Fragments of a Samaritan Targum, 1874, introd. p. 69. Cp. Milman, History of 
Christianity, Bk. i, ch. iv (ed. 1840, i. 97). Principal Drumrnond (The Jeivish Messiah, 1877, 
ch. xxii, p. 357) agrees with Gfrorer that the doctrine is very unlikely to have been pre- 
Christian. Thus we are asked to believe that the Jews set up the tradition in order to 
conform their Messianic doctrine to the Christian narrative ! 

2 John iv. Cp. Luke xvii, 11. 3 Acts viii, 1, 5, etc. 


Magog for the sins of Jeroboam." 1 This, however, overlooks the 
circumstance that in two Talmudic passages the Messiah Ben 
David is identified with the Messiah Ben Joseph, or, as he is styled 
in one case, Ben Ephraim. 2 The obvious motive for this identifica- 
tion would be as natural to Jesuists as to orthodox Judaists. The 
Messiah being expected under two names, a claimant with either 
title might be met by denial on the score that he had not the right 
descent. To make the Son of David a Son of Joseph by the plan 
of giving him an actual father of the latter name was a device 
thoroughly on the plane of the popular psychology of that age ; 
since the Davidists 3 could point out to the Josephists that their 
stipulation was now fulfilled in a manner which showed them to 
have misunderstood their prophecy. 4 

The myth of Joseph, then, arose as a real accessory to the cult. 
Once introduced, he would naturally figure as an elderly man, not 
only in the interest of the Virgin-myth, but in terms of the Hebrew 
precedent, adopted in the myth of the parentage of John the Baptist. 
He is accordingly represented in the apocryphal History of Joseph 
the Carpenter (cc. 4, 7) and in the Gospel of the Birth of Mary 
(c. 8), though not in those of the canon, as a very old man; and 
this is the view of Christian tradition. Such a concept might of 
course very well arise from the simple wish to insist on the point 
that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus. But here again there 
is a presumption that the detail, along with that of the leading of 
the laden ass by Joseph in the journey of the "holy family," was 
suggested by old religious ceremonial. In the sacred procession of 
Isis, as described by Apuleius in his Metamorphoses, one of the 
figures is that of a feeble old man leading an ass. It is sufficiently 
unlikely that the great Isiac cult would adopt such a detail by way 
of representing an episode originating in a recent system. Grounds 
for the symbolism in question may be found in Plutarch's state- 
ment 5 that in the forecourt of the temple of a Goddess at Sais there 
were sculptured a child, an old man, and some animal figures, the 
two former standing simply for the beginning and the ending of life. 
Further, the Egyptians held that all things came from Saturn 6 (or a 

1 Nutt, as cited, p. 70. Cp. Leslie, Short and Easy Method with the Jews, ed. 1812, pp. 
127-130; Lightf oot, Horce Hebraicce : in Matt, i, 2. 

2 Tract. Succa, fol. 52, 1; Zohar Chadash, fol. 45, 1; and Pesikta, fol. 62, quoted by 
F. H. Reichardt, Belation of the Jewish Christians to the Jews, 1884, pp. 37-38. 

8 Tbe passage duplicated in Matt, xxii, 41-46, Mark xii, 35-36, and Luke xx, 41-44, shows 
that there was an anti-Davidic (possibly Samaritan) group of Jesuists, who interpolated 
the gospels for their special purpose. 

4 Renan, who has so many glimpses that come to nothing because of his lawless method, 
has the note: "Le nom de Ben Joseph, qui, dans le Talmud, designe l'un des Messies, 
donne a reflechir " (Vie de J&sus, edit 15e. p. 74, note). But he goes no further. 

5 I. and O. c. 32. 6 Id. c. 59. 


similar Egyptian God), who signified at once Time and the Nile, 1 
and was always figured as aged. On the other hand, as we have 
seen and shall see throughout this investigation, the Christian 
system is a patchwork of a hundred suggestions drawn from pagan 
art and ritual usage. 

The detail, given in only two of the canonical gospels, that the 
human father of the God-Man was a carpenter, is again to be 
explained as mythically motived. It is frequently put forward in 
the apocryphal gospels, and may or may not have been transferred 
thence to the canonical. In any case, the probable basis is the 
Gnostic view of the Jewish God as a Demiourgos or subordinate 
Creator-God. Demiourgos means an artisan of any kind, and could 
apply alike to an architect or a carpenter. The word used in the 
canonical gospels, and usually in the apocryphal, is tehton ; but in 
the Latin form of the Gospel of Thomas (c. 11) occurs the form 
architector ; and in Pseudo-Matthew (c. 10) Joseph is said to do 
house-building. Some anti- Judaic Gnostic sect might well call 
Jesus " the son of the Demiourgos "; and to literalize this into " the 
son of the carpenter " would be on the ordinary line of early Christian 

When, however, we note that, no less than the name Mary," 
the name " Joseph " figures in the final scenes in the person of 
Joseph of Arimathea, we are left to surmise that some lost myth, 
without a knowledge of which we cannot complete our interpretation, 
underlay the whole. 

§ 4. The Annunciation. 

This obvious introduction to the supernatural birth is anticipated 
in several pagan legends ; but the most precise parallel is the 
Egyptian ritual usage or standing myth in regard to the birth of 
the kings, which is fully set forth in the sculptures on the wall of 
the temple of Luxor, reproduced and elucidated by Sharpe. 2 There 
we have first the Annunciation to the maiden queen Mautmes, by 
the ibis-headed Thoth, Logos and Messenger of the Gods, that she 
will bear a son. In the next scene the Holy Spirit, Kneph, and the 
Goddess Hathor take the queen's hands and hold to her mouth the 
crux ansata, the cross symbol of life, thus supernaturally impreg- 
nating her. In another scene is represented the birth of the babe, 
and his adoration by deities or priests. This was part of the syste- 
matic deification of the Egyptian kings ; 3 a process which sometimes 

1 Id. c. 32. 2 Egyptian Mythology, pp. 18-19. 

3 Cp. Wiedemann, Belig. of the Anc. Egyptians, Eng. tr. 1897, pp. 162-4, 175-6 ; Renouf , 
Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. p. 161 sq.\ Errnan, Handbook of Egyp. Belig., Eng. tr. pp. 37, 52. 



included their being raised to the position of the third person in 
the prevailing Trinity ; and it involved the doctrine that the king's 
mother was the spouse of the great God Amun-ra, who was there- 
fore the king's father. 1 Thus the post-Pauline creed-makers of 
Alexandria had well-tried myth material lying ready to their hands 
in the ancient Egyptian system. A little had to be left out ; but 
there was small need to invent anything new. 

§ 5. The Cave and Stable Birth. 

Forming as it does part of the late fabulous introduction to the 
third gospel, the story of the birth of the God-Child in a stable is as 
obviously unhistorical as the rest of that narrative. And, whether 
we take the " canonical " story of the inn-stable or the " apocryphal " 
story of the cave, which has become an accepted Christian tradition, 
we have clearly an ill-disguised adaptation of a widespread pagan 
myth. 2 There can be little doubt that the cave shown as the God's 
birth-place at Bethlehem had been from time immemorial a place of 
worship in the cult of Tammuz, as it actually was in the time of 
Jerome ; 3 and as the quasi-historic David bore the name of the Sun- 
God Daoud, or Dodo, 4 who was identical with Tammuz, it was not 
improbably on that account that Bethlehem was traditionally 
" the city of David." In view of these variations of God-names, 
however, and of the close similarities of so many of the ancient 
cults ; and on the hypothesis that the mythical Joshua, son of 
Miriam, was an early Hebrew deity, it may be that one form of the 
Tammuz cult in pre-Christian times was a worship of a Mother 
and Child, Mary and Jesus — that in short Maria = Myrrha, and that 
Jesus was a name of Adonis, Sacred caves were about as common 
as temples in Greece ; and Apollo, Herakles, Hermes, Cybele, 
Demeter, and Poseidon were alike worshipped in them. 5 But above 
all the great cult of Mithra, the Mediator, made a cave pre-eminently 
the place for worshipping its God ; and it may be taken as certain 
that he, and similarly Tammuz, being represented to be born on 
what we now call Christmas Day, would be figured as cave-born. 
Hermes too, the Logos and Messenger or Mediator, was born of 
Maia in a cave ; 6 and, as we have seen, he was represented in vase- 
painting as there lying cradled, surrounded by cows — either those of 

1 In an inscription in honour of Ramses II and III. the God says to the king : " I am 

thy father I have begotten thee, impregnating thy venerable mother." Renouf, as 

cited, p. 163. 

2 See above, Christ and Krishna, pp. 191-205. 3 Epist. 58, ad Paulinum. 

4 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 56-57. 

5 Pausanias, ii, 23 ; iii, 25 ; vii, 25 ; viii, 15, 36, 42 ; x, 32. 

6 Homeridian Hymn to Hermes ; Apollodorus, bk. iii, x, 2. 


the cow-stealing myth or those of some rite on which that myth was 
founded. The stable motive, it would seem, belongs to an extremely 
ancient mythology. The stable-shed, which appears in the Catacomb 
sculptures, was probably pre-historic in the birth-ritual of Krishnaism, 
and would seem even from these very sculptures to have been borrowed 
by the Christians from Mithraism. 1 The adoration of the " Magi," 
which as we have just seen was paralleled in the Egyptian birth- 
ritual, has every sign of being originally a ritual usage ; and the " ox 
and ass " of Christian legend in all probability had the same origin ; 
as had the legend of the bending palm-tree as given in the Koran — 
a legend set forth in a Catacomb sculpture, and given with a differ- 
ence in an apocryphal gospel, but long anticipated in the myths of 
the births of Apollo and Buddha. 2 So again with the " child wrapped 
in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." That is the exact 
description of the Babe-God Hermes in Grecian song and sculpture ; 
and equally of the Babe-God Dionysos, who was carried in his 
manger-basket in ritual-procession, and so represented in art ; and 
of the divine child Ion, who is laid by his mother in his swaddling 
clothes and basket cradle in the cave of her nuptials, and carried 
thence, cradled, by Hermes to the temple. 3 In the Catacomb 
sculpture, the "manger" is just the long basket or lihnon of the 
Greek God-children. 4 A similar ritual, too, is established by Chris- 
tian evidence 5 as having flourished under the Ptolemies in Egypt. 
The Chronicon Paschale represents that even at that period the 
customary adoration of a virgin-born child lying in a manger 6 was 
an ancient mystery ; and we know from other sources that the Sun- 
God Horos, son of the Virgin Isis, was represented annually as born 
at the winter solstice, at the moment of the appearance of the 
constellation Virgo, in the temple where dwelt the sacred cow 
and bull, of whom the former, like the Goddess, was held to be 
supernaturally impregnated. 7 Nothing in hierology is more certain 
than that the Christian story of the birth of Jesus is a mere adapta- 
tion of such ancient pagan materials. The process of myth-manu- 
facturing can be seen going on in* the gospels themselves, Luke 
adding the shepherds, and the conception of Elizabeth, to the 

1 See above, Christ and Krishna, pp. 192-3. 2 Id. pp. 188, 202. 3 Id. p. 193. 

4 It may be worth noting that so late as the middle of the seventeenth century this 
symbol survived in Protestant England. "The coffin of our Christmas pies, in shape 
long," says Selden, "is in imitation of the cratch" (i.e., creche). Table Talk, art. 

5 Above, p. 195. 

6 In this case the word is not liknon but phatyii, the term used in Luke. This was the 
name given in the ancient astronomy to the nebula of the constellation Cancer (Ass and 
Foal)— a further connection of the birth-myth with astronomy. 

7 By a ray of light— an idea reproduced in pictorial treatment of the myth of the Virgin 
Mary. The cow myth was widely spread. See refs. above, p, 194, note 1. 


machinery of the other versions, as the apocryphal gospels add still 
more. The shepherds came from the same pre-historic source as 
the rest. They belong to the myths of Cyrus and Krishna; and 
they are more or less implied in that of Hermes, who on the day of 
his birth stole the cloud cows of Apollo, himself a divine shepherd, 
and God of shepherds. 

§ 6. The Birthday. 

That this must have been placed either on the 25th December, 
or on some other solar date, soon after the birth legend took Chris- 
tian shape, is obvious ; and the late recognition of that date by the 
Church was simply due to the notorious fact of its having been the 
birthday of the Sun-God in half a dozen other religions — Egyptian, 
Persian, Phoenician, Grecian, Teutonic. Only when Christism had 
become as powerful as these could it thus openly outface them. 
Several sects, indeed, long persisted in fixing the day on the 24th or 
25th of April, thus connecting it with the vernal equinox rather than 
the winter solstice, while others placed it at 25th May ; and the 
greater part of the Eastern Church for centuries made the date 
6th January — the day assigned to the Baptism, and now called 
Epiphany. 1 All alike were solar, and were chosen on the same 
principle as had been acted on by the Platonists, who placed the 
master's birthday on that of Apollo 2 — that is, either at Christmas 
or at the vernal equinox. As Julian has explained, these dates 
varied in terms of the different ideas as to when the year began ; 
and the Christian choice would be determined by the prevailing 
usage near the Christian centres. But even in Palestine the day 
chosen had long been a sacred one outside the prevailing cult. It 
seems to have been on the 25th December that the Phoenician God 
Melkarth woke from his winter sleep in his sacred cave. 4 It was on 
the 25th December (Casleu or Chisleu) that Antiochus Epiphanes 
caused sacrifice to be offered on an " idol altar " placed on the altar 
of God"; 5 and from what we know of the persistent polytheistic 
tendencies of the Palestinians at that and earlier stages of their 
history we may infer that the birthday of the Sun-God was a well- 
known date for them as for other nations, though after the Maccabean 
period it would for a time be little heard of in Jewry, save among the 

i Bingham, Christian Antiquities, ed. 1853, vii, 280-2. 2 Diogenes Laertius, Plato, 2. 
3 In Begem Solem, c. 20. See above, Christ and Krishna, pp. 174, 176, notes. 
* Justi, Geschichte cles alten Persiens, 1879, p. 93. The cave, according to Justi, is simply 
the world. 

5 Mace, i, 54-59. 


§ 7. The Massacre of the Innocents. 

It is hardly necessary to dwell on the unhistorical character of 
this story, which appears only in the late preface to the first gospel, 
being absent even from the elaborate narrative of the third, where 
the element of ritual is so obvious in the first two chapters. It is 
simply a detail in the universal myth of the attempted slaying of 
the Child- Sun-God, 1 the disappearance of the stars at morning 
suggesting a massacre from which the Sun-Child escapes ; and we 
see it already in the legend of Moses, which is either based on or 
cognate with an Egyptian myth. In the second century Suetonius 
gives a variant of the myth as accepted history concerning the birth 
of Augustus. 2 But all the available evidence in regard to the Krishna 
myth goes to show that the massacre motive already existed in Indian 
mythology long before the Christian era. 

Note on the Moses Myth. 

I have been challenged for saying that the story of Moses and 
the floating basket is a variant of the myth of Horos and the floating 
island (Herod, ii, 156). But this seems sufficiently proved by the 
fact that in the reign of Eamses II, according to the monuments, 
there was a place in Middle Egypt which bore the name I-en-Moshe, 
"the island of Hoses." That is the primary meaning : Brugsch, who 
proclaims the fact (Egypt under the Pharaohs, Eng. tr. 1st ed. ii, 117), 
suggests that it can also mean " the river-bank of Moses." It is 
very obvious, however, that the Egyptians would not have named a 
place by a real incident in the life of a successful enemy, as Moses 
is represented in Exodus. Name and story are alike mythological, 
and pre-Hebraic, though possibly Semitic. The Assyrian myth of 
Sargon, which is indeed very close to the Hebrew, may be the oldest 
form of all ; but the very fact that the Hebrews located their story 
in Egypt shows that they knew it to have a home there in some 
fashion. The name Moses, whether it mean " the water-child " (so 
Deutsch) or " the hero" (Sayce, Hib. Lect. p. 46), was in all likeli- 
hood an epithet of Horos. The basket, in the later form, was 
doubtless an adaptation from the ^ritual of the basket-borne God- 
Child, as was the birth story of Jesus. In Diodorus Siculus (i, 25) 
the myth runs that Isis found Horos dead " on the water," and 
brought him to life again ; and this is borne out by the Book of the 
Dead (ch. 113 : Budge's ed. p. 178) ; but even in that form the clue 
to the Moses birth-myth is obvious. And there are yet other 
Egyptian connections for the Moses-saga ; since the Egyptians had 
a myth of Thoth (their Logos) having slain Argus (as did Hermes) 

1 Above, pp. 183-5. 2 Octavius, c. 94. 


and having had to fly for it to Egypt, where he gave laws and learn- 
ing to the Egyptians. Yet, curiously enough, this myth probably 
means that the Sun-God, who has in the other story escaped the 
" massacre of the innocents " (the morning stars), now plays the 
slayer on his own account, since the slaying of many-eyed Argus 
probably means the extinction of the stars by the morning sun (cp. 
Emeric-David, Introduction, end). Another "Hermes" was son of 
Nilus, and his name was sacred (Cicero, De Nat. Deor. iii, 22 ; 
cp. 16). The story of the floating-child, finally, becomes part of the 
lore of Greece. In the myth of Apollo, the Babe-God and his sister 
Artemis are secured in floating islands (Arnobius, i, 36), or other- 
wise Delos floats (Pliny, Hist. Nat. ii, 89; iv, 22; Macrob. Sat. 
i, 7 ; Callimachus, Hymn to Delos, 213 ; Pindar, Frag, cited by 
Miiller, Dorians, Eng. tr. i, 332; Lucian, Deor. Dialog., On Delos). 

§ 8. The Boy Jesus in the Temple. 

Strauss 1 has pointed to the obvious untrust worthiness of the 
story of the boy Jesus, at the age of twelve, being lost by his parents 
and then found in the temple, among the doctors, astonishing them 
by his wisdom. It is found in Luke only. As against those critics 
who see in the simplicity and non-miraculous character of the story 
a proof of its genuineness, Strauss points to the extra- Scriptural 
stories of Moses leaving his father's house at twelve to play the 
part of an inspired teacher, and of Samuel beginning to prophesy at 
that age. It was in fact an ordinary Jewish- myth-motive. But 
Strauss has omitted to notice Pagan parallels, one of which supplies 
the probable source of the first part of the gospel story — the losing 
of the child. 

In Strabo's account of Judaea, after the recital of the Greek 
version of the Moses myth, there is a chapter of reflection on the 
operation of divine law, 2 where are given some quotations telling 
how among other episodes " parents went to Delphi, ' anxious to 
learn whether the child which had been exposed was still living,' 
while the child itself ' had gone to the temple of Apollo, in the hope 
of discovering its parents."' The parallel is not exact, but the clue 
to the Christist myth is obvious enough. Strabo's book on Syria 
and Judaea was sure to be read by many Greek-speaking Jews, such 
as constituted the first Jesuist groups ; and the myth may very well 
have been adapted direct from his text, which dates at least a century 
before the gospels. The Pagan myth he reproduces may have been 
reproduced in art ; but as a picture could not easily convey by itself 
the idea that the child had been lost, the written source is in this 

1 Das Leben Jesu, Abs. i, K. v, § 41. 2 B. xvi, c. 2, § 38 (ed. Casaubon, p. 762). 


case the more probable. Jesuists who found Strabo astray in the 
case of the Moses myth would have no scruple about adapting him 
in another case. 

The detail of the Christ-child prophesying in the temple, how- 
ever, compares further with the Egyptian belief that children playing 
in the temple courts conveyed prophetic knowledge by their chance 
cries. 1 And here again we have to reckon with the fact that in one 
part of the Egyptian ritual Isis figured as wailing for the loss of her 
child, the boy Horos. Lactantius, who gives the detail, 2 names not 
Horos but Osiris ; but is quite explicit as to its being a boy who is 
lost and found again ; and we know that Osiris was " the child " at 
Thebes. 3 The ritual occurring in the temple, it was a matter of 
course that the lost boy should be found there. Thus, then, though 
the gospel story of the abnormal wisdom of the child Jesus represents 
a development alike on Pagan and on Jewish lines, the story of the 
finding in the temple is a specifically Pagan myth. 

§ 9. The Upbringing at Nazareth. 

That the location of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem is mythical 
may be taken as granted by all who recognize myth in any part of 
the gospel narrative. That the Messiah Ben David had to be born 
in the royal city of Judaea was an obvious pre-requisite. The 
rationalist criticism of the last generation accordingly proceeded to 
decide that since Jesus was not born at Bethlehem he was born at 
Nazareth ; 4 Strauss pointing to the number of instances in which he 
is called " the Nazarene " in the gospels and the Acts. And, indeed, 
the fashion in which the first and third gospels speak of Joseph and 
Mary as settling in or returning to Nazareth after the birth, while 
the second makes Jesus come from Nazareth sans phrase, points 
naturally to such a view, though the procedure of applying an 
alleged prediction " He shall be called a Nazarite " to account for 
the birth at Nazareth might have put any critical mind upon its 
guard. But when the texts are investigated and tested down — a 
method which Strauss never properly applied — the resulting " Primi- 
tive Gospel," as thus far educed by inquirers anxious to preserve 
what they can, presents a Jesus without any cognomen whatever, 5 
even as do the Epistles. And any reader who will take the trouble 
to check down the references to Nazareth in the first gospel as it 

1 Plutarch, I. and O. c. 14. 2 Div. Inst. i. 21. 

3 Renouf , Hibbert Lectures, p. 84. 

4 So Strauss, First Leben Jesu, Abs. i. K. iv. § 39 (4te Aufl. i, 301); Second Leben Jesu, 
B. i, § 31; B. ii, Kap. i, § 35 (3te Aufl. pp. 191, 335) ; Renan, Vie cle Jesus, ch. ii. 

6 See, for instance, the work of Mr. Jolley, before cited. 


stands will find that for the Ebionites, who, as we know, had not 
the first two chapters, 1 there was there no mention either of Nazareth 
or of Jesus the "Nazarite" or Nazarene. Orthodox criticism has 
loosely accepted the two forms Nazoraios and Nazarenos as equiva- 
lent, and both as standing for " of Nazareth," never explaining the 
recurrent variation in the gospels, where the former occurs five 
times [Bev. Gr.] and the latter six times. Vigilant criticism cannot 
assent to such an evasion, and is forced to ask whether Nazoraios 
does not signify Nazante. 

In the Septuagint, the word which in the Old Testament we 
translate " Nazarite " appears as Nazir (^ a C L p) and Naziraios 
(Nafi/xuos) ; 2 and on this form of spelling orthodox scholarship 
founds the assertion that the Nazoraios of the New Testament 
cannot have had the same meaning. By such reasoning, however, 
it could be proved, not only that the two forms in the Septuagint 
must have had different meanings, but that Josephus must have had 
two significations in the passages (4 Ant. iv, 4, and 19 Ant. vi, 7) in 
which he has been held to speak of the Nazarites, since in the first 
the spelling is Nazaraios (Na^a/jatos : Lat. form Nazarans), and in 
the second Naziraios (Nafi/xxios ; Lat. form Nazir aus). In view of 
the extreme unlikelihood that the four forms had four distinct 
applications, one concludes that the slight variation in Josephus' 
Greek spelling results simply from a difficulty in exactly represent- 
ing the Hebrew sound. Nazaraeus, it happens, is the word used in 
the Latin Vulgate to translate alike the Hebrew in Jud. xiii, 5, 7 ; 
xvi, 17, and the Greek in Matt, ii, 23. Besides, the word Nafwpcuos 
occurs, in the New Testament spelling, in Amos, ii, 12 in the Greek 
version of Theodotion (2d. c), fragments of which are preserved in 
those of Origen's Hexapla. And on no principle set forth by the 
defenders of the conventional view can " Nazoraios " be represented 
as a natural adjective from Nazareth, Nazara, Nezrah, or Netzer. 

Making this discrimination, we find the text of the first gospel 
markedly significant. Beginning with the third chapter, we find 
(v. 13) only " from Galilee " where Mark has " from Nazareth of 
Galilee." In iv, 13, again, we have a plain interpolation in the 
phrase "leaving Nazareth," since that place is not previously 
mentioned; while in Luke (iv, 16) the similar introduction of 
Nazareth is no less clearly spurious, being actually introduced by 
mistake too early in the chapter, so that it tells of the doings at 

1 Epiphanius, Against Heresies, xxx, 13, 14. 

2 The word Nazir occurs in Jud. xiii, 5 ; Naziraios in Lam. iv, 7, and 1 Mace, iii, 49. 
In Numbers vi, Jud. xvi, 17, and Amos ii, 11, 12, the Greek words used signify " set apart," 
"holy," and "consecrated." 


Capernaum (v. 23) before the visit to Capernaum is mentioned, and 
we go on to read (v. 31) of " Capernaum, a city of Galilee," after the 
interpolated ment